Unwrapping the Post-Holiday Blues in Moms

Unwrapping the Post-Holiday Blues in Moms

While the holidays are synonymous with joy, togetherness, and celebration, the period that follows can prove to be anything but. As the boxes of decorations are moved back into the attic, it’s not uncommon for complex emotions to take over. The phenomenon known as “post-holiday blues” takes place when the chaos of the holidays has come to an end, leaving behind feelings of emptiness, anxiety, and frustration. This slump can have particular effects on mothers, who often take the lead on holiday planning and are therefore more susceptible to the highs and lows of the holiday season and beyond.

The post-holiday blues share many characteristics of anxiety and mood disorders. Sadness, loneliness, anxiety, insomnia, and disappointment are common traits, and are often confined to the winter months.

Emotional labor, expectations, and repression

Mothers often bear the brunt of emotional labor during the holidays. According to research done by the American Psychological Association, women are more likely than men to report an increase of stress during the holiday season, citing lack of time, lack of money, and pressure to give presents as primary stressors. The pressure to buy the perfect gifts, decorate the home, and prepare elaborate meals can be emotionally taxing, and mothers will frequently spend weeks planning, organizing, and ensuring that everyone in the family has a memorable and magical experience.

Social media has contributed to an unrealistic set of expectations surrounding the holiday season. As we scroll through countless posts of elaborately decorated houses and piles of perfectly wrapped presents, it’s easy to find ourselves comparing our holiday celebrations to those of others. Many mothers feel responsible to create a picture-perfect holiday atmosphere for their families, and often face a sense of letdown if they fail to meet these expectations.

The period of Thanksgiving through New Year’s is a chaotic time, and busy parents frequently spend every spare moment focused preparing for celebrations. With so much time and energy focused on others, it is easy to neglect your own mental wellbeing, pushing any negative emotions aside in order to focus on the long list of things that need to get done. January brings time to catch your breath and reflect, leading to weeks of emotions bubbling to the surface. These repressed feelings will be difficult to handle all at once, and will result feeling overwhelmed and burned out.

Manage the post-holiday blues

The post-holiday blues don’t have to be inevitable. Be sure to set boundaries with family and friends in order to avoid stretching yourself too thin, and reach out for help before you begin to feel overwhelmed. If symptoms have already set in, take time to yourself and focus on self-care. Prioritizing things that make you happy are key in escaping the feelings of loneliness and isolation that are all too frequently associated with the winter months. Focus on eating well, exercising, and staying mentally stimulated. Most importantly, be gentle with yourself and remember that, even if the holidays didn’t go as planned, you are still a great mother.

If you are a new mom and worried about how you are feeling, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Contact the North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center at (516) 626-1971 to get the necessary support you need.

Ask the Guidance Center Experts: Managing Your Child’s New Year’s Resolutions

Ask the Guidance Center Experts: Managing Your Child’s New Year’s Resolutions

In this monthly column, therapists from North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center answer your questions on issues related to parenting, mental health and children’s well-being. To submit a question, email communications@northshorechildguidance.org.

Question: With the New Year approaching, my daughter comes home from school every day with a different resolution she declares she wants to stick to. I love that she has goals she wants to accomplish, but I want to make sure she isn’t overwhelming herself with too many expectations. How can I help her manage her long list of New Year’s Resolutions, and support her in sticking to the ones she finds important?

-Realizing Realistic Resolutions

Dear Realizing Realistic Resolutions, 

As we approach the New Year, many of us are familiar with the enthusiasm our children bring home, declaring a myriad of resolutions they want to accomplish when the clock strikes midnight. It isn’t uncommon for children to overload themselves with things they would like to achieve, widely ranging from eating healthy to becoming the President. Kids need to feel a sense of mastery, and having an abundance of resolutions may make that difficult.

Support is integral in helping kids stay committed to their resolutions. It’s important to begin the conversation by expressing how proud you are of her desire to make choices that will positively impact her and foster an environment of open communication on her journey. Sit down with your child and go over the list together, picking out one or two objectives that are particularly meaningful and realistically achievable. Work together to create a reasonable timeline and break down the goals into smaller, actionable steps. Be sure to celebrate the progress along the way, making the experience enjoyable and enriching for your family. Does she want to be at the top of her class this year? Explain how often she’ll have to study to make that happen and celebrate every A on a test she brings home.

Watch out for signs that your child is overwhelmed, stressed, or frustrated. If she is falling short of her goals and expresses feelings of inadequacy, it’s essential to reassess the situation. This should be an enjoyable experience, so remind your daughter that setbacks are a natural part of growth, and that she can always adjust her resolutions to become more manageable. Always prioritize progress over perfection!

Lastly, encourage making positive changes all year long, not just on New Year’s Day. There is never a bad time to start a goal, and pushing it off until January 1st can make the task more daunting. This goes for adults, too! How often do you wait until the new year to get back into the gym instead of signing up for the membership then and there? New Year’s resolutions can be a great source of motivation, but remember that it’s up to you to make a change in your life, not a date on the calendar.

As the preeminent not-for-profit children’s mental health agency on Long Island, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center is dedicated to restoring and strengthening the emotional well-being of children (from birth – age 24) and their families. For 70 years, the Guidance Center has been a place of hope and healing, providing innovative and compassionate treatment to all who enter our doors, regardless of their ability to pay. For more information about the Guidance Center, visit www.northshorechildguidance.org or call (516) 626-1971.

The Gift of Gratitude During the Holiday Season

The Gift of Gratitude During the Holiday Season

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, meant to give us the opportunity to reflect on family, tradition, resolutions and… budgets. The holiday season is characterized primarily by wish lists and last-minute shopping, straying further away from the interconnectedness we all aim for during the winter holidays. When every advertisement is aimed towards getting our children the hottest new toy, kids are led to wonder less about what family members they’ll be seeing and focus more on which presents they’ll be receiving. How do we break out of this cycle? By teaching our kids the gift of gratitude.

Give to the community
Encouraging children to give back to the less fortunate members of their community can allow them to appreciate their privileges more. Suggest that, instead of asking for a toy or game, they put the money towards helping other children. Volunteering at a soup kitchen during the holidays is a great way to bond with your family while connecting to the community. Sit down with your children and figure out what causes they find meaningful, whether it be mental health, fighting hunger, supporting animal shelters, or anything in between. A collaborative conversation with the whole family will show your children the value of a dollar and allow them to realize that the best present isn’t receiving, but giving.

Watch out for overconsumption
Thanks to the advent of two-day shipping and online-only deals, shopping couldn’t be more convenient. This often leads to making purchases on things we have no real need for, simply because it’s accessible. When children see packages arriving on the doorstep multiple times a week, they learn to view spending money on material items as inconsequential and commonplace, even learning to expect new items on a regular basis.

It can be tempting to spoil your children, especially during the holidays. While there’s nothing wrong with showing love through treats and toys, try to avoid getting everything on their wish lists. Instead, begin to teach your child financial literacy and help them determine the difference between gifts that are wants and needs.

In order to keep overconsumption in the household in check during the holidays, it’s important to show kids how to decide if you really need something before purchasing it. Adopt the one in, one out method: if your child asks for a new toy or video game, explain that in order to make room for a new item, another item will get donated to charity. If they aren’t willing to part with any of their old toys or clothes, they probably don’t need something new.

Write thank you letters
Writing thank you letters during the holidays is a great way to practice gratitude. Whether addressing them to family, friends, teachers, or bus drivers, a handwritten letter is a touching way to show your love and appreciation for a person. In a fast-paced world, writing letters is a personal way to teach children to slow down and reflect on all the support and generosity they are given in their day-to-day lives.

Teaching your child the gift of gratitude is an invaluable lesson that will strengthen their relationships with family, community, and themselves for the rest of their lives. As they grow to place less of a value on receiving presents and more on spreading joy and generosity, children and families will be able to appreciate the holiday season in a rewarding and fulfilling way.

Caring for Those with Addiction During the Holidays

Caring for Those with Addiction During the Holidays

The holiday season is often characterized by joy, festivities, and the warmth of family gatherings. However, for those in the role of caretaker to a loved one living with addiction, this time of year brings unique challenges that can be hard to navigate. While others celebrate, caregivers find themselves grappling with the dynamics of addiction, looking to foster compassion and hope during a time that can be trying for both the person in recovery and those aiding in their journey. As difficult as it can be, there are things you can do to make the holidays easier on you and your family.

Lessen the importance of alcohol at your function

Binge drinking is a common occurrence during any major holiday, as it’s easy to let things get out of control during a celebration. If someone with addictive behaviors is attending your function, try to de-emphasize the importance of alcohol. For some, this may mean not offering any alcoholic beverages throughout the night. For others, a variety of mocktails alongside the wine selection will make your loved one feel included without being too tempted to compromise their progress.

Keep to your usual routine

Though it can be tricky to upkeep during the holidays, a structured routine is vital when caregiving for a person struggling with addiction. Sticking to a schedule can lessen the feeling of being out of control during the holiday season, reinforcing a sense of normalcy.

Things like holiday traveling, shopping, and cooking can throw off set schedules. Make life easier on yourself and your loved one by setting alarms, meal-prepping, and choosing to stay local for the holidays.

Manage triggers and anxiety

Whether your loved one is in active addiction or recovery, it is important to understand things that trigger them in order to make family gatherings successful. 1 in 5 people with anxiety report turning to alcohol or substance use in order to cope with stress, so attempting to reduce any major triggers is key in staying on track.

Open communication is integral when managing stressors of any kind, so don’t be afraid to have hard conversations during the holidays. You may want to talk with other family members about conversation topics that are off-limits. Perhaps questions about job hunting or romantic partners are sources of anxiety for the person struggling with addiction; suggest that these inquiries are directed at others or avoided altogether.

Take care of yourself first

When caregiving for someone struggling with addiction, it’s natural to want to devote all your energy towards aiding in their recovery. However, neglecting your own needs will inevitably lead to burnout and exhaustion, impacting your ability to offer effective help to your loved one. Taking care of yourself first involves setting boundaries, both emotional and physical, to protect your mental health. Ensure you make time for self-care activities, whether it’s engaging in hobbies, seeking support from friends and family, or just taking short breaks to recharge. Remember that you are allowed to enjoy the holidays, even if a person close to you is struggling. You are not responsible for the actions of the addicted person, and it is not your problem to fix alone.

Addiction is a challenging journey, and you can only offer meaningful help when you are in a stable and healthy state yourself. In prioritizing your well-being, you position yourself to be a more resilient and supportive caregiver in the long run.

Always remember

The holiday season can be an especially challenging time for those in the role of caregiver for individuals struggling with addiction. The demands of the holidays, coupled with the complexities of managing another’s substance abuse, can create a unique set of stressors. By fostering open communication, setting boundaries, and maintaining routines, caregivers can navigate the holiday season with resilience and provide the vital support your loved ones need.

Staying Organized As A Parent On A Budget

Staying Organized As A Parent On A Budget


By Guest Blogger Colleen Stewart

Being a parent is tons of work, so it can be easy to get overwhelmed. After all, there is a seemingly never-ending list of things to do with limited hours in a day. Thankfully, there are many cost-effective ways to stay organized as a parent, even if you have multiple kids, work full-time, and struggle to keep your home neat and tidy.

The Importance of Staying Organized

Keeping your home clean can help reduce stress and strain in many ways. According to Hope Mental Health, clutter makes you focus on things that aren’t important, taking attention away from where it’s most needed. Being disorganized can greatly reduce productivity, and we all know how it feels to get so far behind that we don’t know what the next step should be.

Tips On Staying Organized

Go Digital

Keeping digital copies of medical, school, and other records can be a lifesaver for parents. Saving these documents as PDFs makes it easier to send them to anyone who needs access to your children’s histories, such as doctors’ offices and schools. PDFs can be viewed on any device and don’t require a special operating system. There are many free PDF tools online that allow you to edit, sort, rotate, and convert your documents.

Create a Family Command Center

A family command center is a space where everyone in the house can check to find out what they have to do for the week. It could be in physical form, such as a wall calendar or bulletin board, or you could utilize your smart technology to create a list for everyone in your home.

Purge the Unnecessary

Clutter is a major cause of stress, and the best way to get rid of clutter is to donate or sell things that you no longer need. These items can be given a new life in another family, and they won’t take up space and collect dust on your shelves. The Zebra Blog offers a list of worthwhile charities to consider.

Save Time Using Meal Planning and Bulk Buying

Meal planning and bulk buying groceries are effective strategies for parents to maintain organization in their busy lives. By planning meals in advance, parents can streamline their grocery shopping, ensuring they buy only what is necessary, thus reducing waste and saving time. Bulk buying frequently used items minimizes the need for frequent shopping trips, allowing for better management of time and resources. This approach also aids in budget control, as buying in bulk often comes with savings. Furthermore, meal planning ensures a balanced diet for the family, reducing the stress of last-minute meal decisions and promoting healthier eating habits.

Other Tips

● Be creative. There is no hard and fast set of rules when it comes to being organized. The most important thing is to find a system that works for you and your family. Come up with solutions that fit your lifestyle and budget.

● Change things up. If you find that an organizational system doesn’t work, don’t be shy about changing things up. It’s okay to change course and try something new!

● Streamline your morning routine. If you have kids, your morning routine is likely hectic. By streamlining things, mornings will become that much easier for everyone in the house. Consider using a closet hanging organizer to put several days’ worth of outfits together, so that no one ever has to wonder what they’re going to wear to school, packing lunches the night before, and having backpacks set out at the front door.

Being a parent on a budget means you have to get creative in all aspects of life, and being organized is no exception. Today’s tips, from digitizing your documents to purging your home of clutter, can all help you reduce the stress caused by disorganization.

Talking to Kids about Tragedy

Talking to Kids about Tragedy

By Kathy Rivera, Executive Director/CEO, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center

Children are always listening, even to things they may not have the ability to fully comprehend. Whether it be from social media, school, or adults in their lives, it’s inevitable that kids are hearing about the many tragedies that are occurring throughout the world today. Though a parent’s first instinct may be to shield their child from the anxiety and fear that comes with the unknown, avoiding the topic could leave their child feeling lost and helpless.

Discussing challenging world events with your children is a delicate but necessary task. By fostering trust, maintaining composure, promoting open communication, addressing social media influence, and helping children cope with anxiety, you can guide them through the complexities of the world while providing them with a safe and supportive environment. These conversations should be ongoing and adapted to your child’s age and maturity level as they grow and develop.

A foundation of trust

Children need to know that they can rely on their parents through hard times. It’s important to have a strong foundation of trust before going into any difficult conversation with your child. So, what’s the best way to do this? Dr. Sue Cohen, Director of Early Childhood and Psychological Services at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, highlights the importance of actively listening to your children. By paying attention to what they say, encouraging family conversations, and demonstrating mutual respect, you can build a strong foundation of trust. This is vital in helping your children navigate complex issues and challenges in the world.

Remain calm 

Before explaining the news to children, it’s essential for parents to come to terms with it themselves. Kids are adept at picking up on adult emotions, often feeling affected by the stress, anger, and anxiety of their caregivers, so remaining composed while approaching the topic is crucial for effective communication. “Children feed into their parents’ tone, so if they give the information in a calm manner, children will know that they’re safe,” says Dr. Cohen.

Open communication

Parents should strive to understand what their children already know to gauge their exposure to external information. Get a sense of their awareness and correct any misinformation they may have encountered. Allow them to ask questions without judgment and answer them in an age-appropriate manner. For younger kids, assure them that the scary events are happening far away and that they are safe. For older children, stress the importance of finding reliable information on current events and knowing when to look away from the news.

Addressing social media 

With the rise of technology and social media, kids today have unfiltered access to events happening anywhere in the world. What once could only be viewed on the nightly news or in the morning paper is now at our children’s fingertips 24/7. It is important to explain to tweens and teenagers the realities of social media. Anyone can have a platform on sites like TikTok and Instagram, which means that not everything they see is backed up by facts. Media literacy is taught in some schools, but it’s important to continue those lessons at home. Discuss the importance of finding primary sources, understanding biases, and recognizing historical context.

Dealing with anxiety

Exposure to tragic events can significantly increase anxiety levels in children, impacting their daily routine, sleep schedules, and eating habits. Dr. Cohen emphasizes the importance of maintaining regular routines, as children thrive on consistency. Encourage children to express their feelings through creative outlets like artwork and music, or by seeking support from a youth group or volunteer service. Staying mentally and physically active can significantly impact how children cope with distressing news.

Remember that support is there for your families as we all navigate this difficult time. Contact the North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center at 516-626-1971 if you or a loved one are struggling.

Managing Alcohol Use During Thanksgiving

Managing Alcohol Use During Thanksgiving

The holiday season is rapidly approaching, bringing with it countless expectations of family connection, laughter, gratitude, and joy. When these idyllic visions fall short, mental health often worsens, leading many to turn to alcohol and substance use to cope. As we gather around the table to give thanks, it’s equally important to understand the link between Thanksgiving and alcohol abuse, and what we can do to prioritize well-being during the holidays.

Why do the holidays serve as triggers for alcohol and substance use?

According to NAMI, 64% of individuals living with a mental illness report that the holidays make their conditions worse, often due to the increased amount of stress the holiday season brings. People tend to feel more anxious during this time for a variety of reasons: the holiday blues and seasonal affective disorder; the pressure of gift giving and overspending; unhealthy family dynamics; and much more. Studies suggest that people experiencing high stress levels have a greater likelihood of using alcohol or substances to forget their worries. These factors, combined with the culture surrounding alcohol during the holiday season, leads to an increased risk in the urge to over consume or relapse.

Setting boundaries

Rates of binge drinking increase during every holiday, but Thanksgiving is known to be among the worst offenders. The day before Thanksgiving has even earned the nickname “Blackout Wednesday,” as it is one of the most popular days for bars in America, even rivaling St. Patrick’s Day. For those suffering with alcohol and substance use issues, Thanksgiving can prove to be a major trigger. Family members that don’t understand sobriety may encourage a drink with dinner, thinking that “just one won’t hurt.” For some, even being in the same room as alcohol can be enough to compromise progress.

In these situations, it is important to set boundaries and communicate with your family. Here are some ways you can express your intentions and stick to them at your holiday dinner.

● Host Thanksgiving yourself. Your house, your rules. By hosting, you can ensure alcohol will not be on the menu.
● Let people know ahead of time that you aren’t drinking. If you feel comfortable sharing your sobriety journey with select family members, explain how important it is that you aren’t offered alcohol.
● Be the designated driver. Giving yourself the responsibility of driving someone else home at night will further motivate you to refrain from drinking.
● Have a non-alcoholic drink in your hand at all times. Consider bringing an alcohol-free beer, wine, or juice to sip on throughout the night. Holding a beverage can deter people from offering you something alcoholic to drink, and will help lessen feelings of missing out.
● Stay busy. Offer to help with the cooking, cleaning, and serving throughout Thanksgiving dinner. This can help to keep your mind distracted and away from thoughts of alcohol and anxiety.

As the holidays draw near, it’s important to value the things we should be most grateful for: our well-being, and that of our loved ones. Understanding the triggers for overconsumption or relapse & knowing when and how to set boundaries are integral in maintaining a healthy lifestyle during the season of gratitude. If you or a loved one show signs of alcohol and substance use, call the Guidance Center at (516) 626-1971 or click here to get connected to our drug and alcohol treatment and prevention services. It is never too late to turn hurting into healing

Exploring Digital Creativity for Kids’ Mental Wellness

Exploring Digital Creativity for Kids’ Mental Wellness

By Guest Blogger Ronnie Salazar

Children’s mental wellness plays a pivotal role in their overall development and happiness. As young minds navigate the challenges of growing up, it is essential to prioritize their emotional and psychological well-being. A solid foundation of mental wellness not only fosters resilience but also contributes to better academic performance, healthier relationships, and a positive outlook on life.

In today’s digital age, children are exposed to various technological devices and platforms. However, these digital tools can also serve as a powerful medium for nurturing kids’ mental wellness. Digital creativity, encompassing various forms of artistic expression such as digital art, music, storytelling, and video editing, can provide a safe and constructive outlet for children to explore their emotions, build self-esteem, and cope with stress.

The Power of Digital Creativity for Kids

Expressive Outlets for Emotional Release

Digital creativity offers children a unique platform to express their thoughts, feelings, and emotions in a safe and non-judgmental environment. Kids can channel their innermost emotions, allowing them to process complex feelings and experiences. Whether they create digital paintings, compose music or edit videos, these outlets enable children to communicate and cope with emotions they might find challenging to express verbally.

Boosting Self-Esteem and Confidence

As kids witness the results of their creative efforts, whether it’s a captivating piece of digital art or a self-edited video, their sense of achievement grows, boosting their self-esteem and confidence. Positive feedback from peers, family, and teachers further reinforces their belief in their abilities, contributing to a solid and healthy self-image.

Stress-Relief and Relaxation through Creativity

When immersed in creative activities, the mind focuses on the task at hand, diverting attention from daily stressors. Whether it’s composing a soothing piece of music, engaging in digital storytelling, or experimenting with art, these creative pursuits can become a form of mindfulness, promoting a sense of calm and relaxation in young minds.

Exploring Digital Art and Video Editing

Digital Drawing and Painting for Self-Expression

Digital drawing and painting provide an exciting and accessible medium for kids to express themselves artistically. With a wide range of digital tools and software available, children can unleash their creativity through vibrant colors, imaginative compositions, and intricate details. This form of self-expression allows them to communicate their thoughts and emotions visually, enabling a deeper understanding of their inner world. Digital art also encourages experimentation and the freedom to undo and redo, empowering children to explore and refine their ideas without fear of mistakes.

Video Editing as a Creative Outlet

Video editing opens up a world of storytelling possibilities for kids. By piecing together clips, adding effects, and incorporating music, children can create their narratives, documentaries, or artistic pieces. Video editing allows them to explore their storytelling abilities and perspective, giving them a sense of authorship over their creations. Whether they capture real-life events or conjure up fantastical scenarios, video editing provides a means for kids to share their ideas and perspectives with others, fostering a sense of connection and communication through visual storytelling.

Music and Sound Creativity

Digital Music Tools for Kids

From user-friendly apps to virtual instruments, children can explore the world of music composition and production in exciting ways. These digital music tools often offer pre-made loops, easy-to-use interfaces, and interactive tutorials that allow kids to experiment with melodies, rhythms, and harmonies. Engaging with digital music tools empowers children to create their musical pieces, fostering a sense of accomplishment and creativity. You can try Virtual Drumming or Song Smith app.

Benefits of Music for Kids’ Emotional Wellbeing

Music holds a profound impact on children’s emotional well-being. Engaging in music and sound creativity can be a cathartic outlet for emotions, enabling kids to express themselves in ways they might not be able to with words alone. Whether playing an instrument, composing music, or using digital sound effects, children experience a range of emotions, from joy and excitement to introspection and comfort. Music has the power to evoke powerful emotions and memories, offering solace during challenging times and enhancing positive emotions during happier moments.

Interactive Storytelling and Writing

Digital Platforms for Storytelling

Interactive digital platforms now offer immersive and engaging storytelling experiences that go beyond traditional books. These platforms incorporate elements like animations, sound effects, and interactive choices, allowing children to actively participate in the narrative. Through e-books, interactive apps, and online storytelling communities, kids can explore a vast array of stories tailored to their interests, sparking their creativity and curiosity.

Fostering Imagination and Empathy through Stories

As they embark on virtual adventures and make decisions that shape the storyline, children are encouraged to think critically, solve problems, and envision new possibilities. Moreover, exposure to diverse characters and perspectives in stories helps kids develop empathy and understanding of others’ experiences. By immersing themselves in these interactive narratives, children can develop emotional intelligence, empathy, and a profound appreciation for the power of storytelling in connecting hearts and minds.

Overcoming Challenges and Concerns

Addressing Cyberbullying and Online Safety

Parents and educators should educate kids about the importance of responsible online behavior and how to recognize and report cyberbullying incidents. Creating an open and supportive environment where children feel comfortable sharing their online experiences can help identify and address any issues promptly. Implementing parental controls and monitoring tools can also provide an added layer of protection, ensuring kids’ safety while exploring the digital world.

Balancing Screen Time with Offline Activities

While digital creativity offers numerous benefits, excessive screen time can lead to various challenges, such as sleep disturbances and reduced physical activity. Encouraging kids to participate in offline activities, such as sports, reading, or spending time with family and friends, helps foster a well-rounded lifestyle. Setting clear boundaries and designating tech-free periods can promote healthier screen habits and ensure that digital creativity complements, rather than substitutes, other valuable aspects of their lives.

Conclusion

Digital creativity offers children a myriad of benefits, from providing expressive outlets for emotional release through digital art and video editing to fostering self-esteem and confidence. Engaging in music and sound creativity allows children to connect with their emotions and experience the therapeutic effects of creative expression. While navigating the digital landscape, addressing concerns like cyberbullying and balancing screen time is crucial for ensuring a safe and well-rounded experience.

Youth Voices in Youth Mental Health Advocacy

Youth Voices in Youth Mental Health Advocacy

By Guest Blogger Chloe Cohen

As the need for mental health services for youth becomes increasingly necessary, with 21.8% of children diagnosed with one or more of the common mental health conditions, it’s vital to highlight the voices of those being affected: the children. Recent studies and institutionalized changes surrounding the mental wellbeing of children can be largely attributed to the speaking out of young people and normalization of seeking help.

It can be questioned why diagnosis statistics are at a steady incline. It remains true that it may be virtually impossible to pinpoint the exact causal pathway to one rooted issue as mental disorders are largely multifactorial. Despite this, it is important to listen to the children impacted in order to make advancements in our systems and resources.

Combating the Stigma: How Generation Z Views Mental Health

In a study focused on the generational differences in mental health, Deloitte found that in terms of holistic health priorities, the leading concern for Generation Z is mental health with physical health following in second. This is a drastic difference to the older generations who majorly don’t consider mental illness to be a “health” problem – Mental Health America found that only 38% of adults 65 and older believe depression to be a health issue. The stigma surrounding mental health has been a prominent setback towards advancements in treatment for years. Generation Z, myself included in this demographic, has taken this matter into our own hands in consistently spreading awareness and further, advocating for the need for accessible treatment and resources.

Despite more frequent mental health conversations, the gap between prevalence and treatment is still vast so it’s crucial to listen to the youth’s recommendations on what they believe will combat these struggles.

So, What Should Be Done?

New York State has taken notice of the youth’s call to action and began to dig deeper at what can be done for these issues. Governor Hochul invested a striking $1 billion in youth mental health studies to address the CDC instated mental health crisis among youth. The premise of the study was to collect feedback from children all over NYS with a focus on what types of programs and advice youth could envision de-escalating the crisis.

According to the June 2023 published Youth Mental Health Listening Tour Report, here are some key youth recommendations from the study:

● Involving young people in decision making/ mental health program design

● Hiring diverse health professionals that can relate to a variety of students

● Increase amount of youth led programs

● Educate adults on how to support young people, listen without judgment, and establish clear lines of confidentiality

● Invest in social and recreational activities to promote mental wellness

It’s the duty of the professionals and NYS to hear these results and put them into action. Now, where does The Guidance Center fall into this?

The Guidance Center is Here to Help

North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center emphasizes compassion and innovative treatments for children from birth to 24 years old. Our staff across all three locations contains a wide range of diverse individuals with an array of experiences in order to optimize the relatability and relationships between therapist and client, as is an important factor in mental health care according to the report. Additionally, The Guidance Center provides a number of programs and services to support the youth in the way that they need to be supported. Each client is comprehensively evaluated, tailored to an individual treatment plan that may include any combination of individual, family, and group therapy, and if needed, medication management.

As an intern in The Guidance Center, I have had the privilege of learning about our programs and closely working with the staff that make it all happen. I can say with confidence that The Guidance Center not only provides services that accommodate these youth recommendations, but the staff as a whole is truly dedicated to ensuring the mental wellbeing of our youth. Outside of therapy, The Guidance Center offers programs such as the Wilderness Respite Program that hosts children from any mental health facility to come together and participate in adventurous activities as a gateway to mastery of social skills and youth empowerment. The Guidance Center also offers programs such as the LGBTQ+ & Latina Girls Project that bring together clients who may be in need of extra support from those who have similar experiences.

Our staff is specially trained for working with children and their families with no limits or restrictions to provide our clients with the care they need. A major setback to children receiving services is financial limitations. At The Guidance Center, we are dedicated to reaching everybody who needs us. As said by Executive Director/CEO, Kathy Rivera, “We turn no one away for any inability to pay… We are committed to equity in mental health regardless of what your ZIP code is, what your bank account looks like. Everyone deserves to have access to care.” The Guidance Center is a place where youth heal and thrive accessibly and affordably as we stay up to date with changing times and individually molded treatment plans.

If you or your child is in need of support, know that we are here to help! Call us at (516) 626-1971 to learn more about our services or make an appointment today.

How Technology Can Help Kids Understand a Parent’s Addiction

How Technology Can Help Kids Understand a Parent’s Addiction

 

Guest Blog By Emily Graham

About 1 in 11 children in the US live with a parent who has a substance addiction problem, reports the National Library of Medicine. This is a worrying statistic – such kids tend to have turbulent lives and many mental health challenges. The addicted parent may demonstrate an extreme spectrum of behavior to the child, ranging from healthy caring to outright abuse, leaving the child feeling confused, anxious, angry, traumatized, and unstable.

Understanding that the erratic behavior is a result of the parent’s substance addiction can help the child come to terms with the situation. It gives them insight into the “why”, that it’s not their fault, and helps them gain more mental peace. Furthermore, if the child is of suitable age, it can help the child practically assist the parent.

Technology can be an invaluable asset in giving the child insight into addiction (and related behavior). Below, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Centerexplains how.

Access to educational resources

First and foremost, technology provides children with easy access to helpful educational resources covering addiction. The child can conveniently read articles, watch videos, and check other resources from their smartphones or computers. Much of this material is explained simply, in a way even young kids would understand. Moreover, children can have pressing questions answered directly by experts. The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation offers free educational resources for kids.

Support counseling 

A parent’s addiction can be hard for the child to witness. Sometimes, if the parent is abusive, it affects them directly. With technology like video conferencing and Chatbots, kids can quickly connect to qualified therapists and other trained mental health professionals. Said experts can help the child make sense of their parent’s behavior and provide emotional and mental support. If you’re a child or young adult looking for such support, reach out to North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center.

Virtual participation in support groups

Support groups provide multiple benefits – an avenue to express your feelings, access to helpful information, access to people in similar situations, increased self-understanding, and anxiety relief. Children can’t always join support groups in the real world, for various reasons. With technology, kids can join virtual support groups (including forums, social media groups, chat groups, and more).

Communicating with parents struggling with addiction 

Sometimes the parent struggling with addiction may not be physically present for the child. In such cases, messaging and video conferencing apps allow theparent to communicate with the child remotely. Instead of having the other parent (or a stranger) explain the reasons for the absence, the struggling parent could do so in person, which is better for everyone involved.

Second or third-hand experience 

Understanding addiction is easier if you witness the effects personally or hear stories from people who are struggling with a substance abuse disorder. There are several apps out there – like AA Big Book and Sober Grid – that provide kids with second or third-hand experiences from people suffering from addiction or their loved ones. The AA Big Book app, for example, is full of personal stories, prayers, and how-to guides revolving around addiction.

Role reversal: Helping the addicted parent 

Sometimes, the child looks after the parent instead of the other way around. This role reversal is, unfortunately, frequent in families where one or both parents suffers from an addiction. Technology can provide the child access to helpful resources on addiction treatment and recovery, not to mention get direct assistance from qualified experts for their parents. For instance, technology can raise awareness of and provides access to addiction recovery facilities that can help beat addiction.

Conclusion 

Understanding the problem is an important first step in managing it. When the child understands the parent’s addiction – including the causes and symptoms – they know not to take it personally. It can help them gain more mental peace and inner stability. In many, it can help the child assist the parent in recovering. Technology can both facilitate said understanding and act as useful support when the child wants to help the parent recover.

Teach Your Teens the Dangers of Driving Impaired, Anton Media February 10, 2023

Teach Your Teens the Dangers of Driving Impaired, Anton Media February 10, 2023

By Dr. Nellie-Taylor Walthrust

Getting a driver’s license is a rite of passage that teenagers have been celebrating since the early days of automobiles. Driving makes teens feel more independent than ever before, and it can also provide a break for parents, who spend a great deal of their time carting their kids back and forth from practices and other activities.

But the celebration of this newfound freedom necessitates a crucial conversation and the drawing of a line in the sand: Let them know that driving while using alcohol, marijuana or any other substances is forbidden, and start having these conversations when they are young.

With marijuana use now legal for people 21 years of age and older, your kids may be of the mindset that it’s not a big deal. That’s far from the truth. It’s illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol and weed or other drugs. According to the NY State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, driving under the influence of marijuana subjects you to the same penalties as driving under the influence of alcohol.

And there’s good reason: Marijuana impacts areas of the brain that control perception, balance, coordination, memory and judgment. It can slow reaction times, decrease attention and make it difficult to follow the road and stay in your lane.

We know you don’t want your kids to use marijuana or alcohol, period. But the reality is that many of them do. Having the conversation about safety and driving will not make them any more likely to experiment – in fact, it might have the opposite effect.

Here are some sobering statistics:

  • 23% of teens admit they have driven under the influence of alcohol, prescription drugs or marijuana.
  • Teen drivers 16-19 have a fatal crash rate almost three times as high as drivers ages 20 and older.
  • The percent of crash deaths involving cannabis more than doubled from 9% in 2000 to 21.5% in 2018.
  • 24% of teens reported that within the previous month, they had been a passenger in a car with a driver who had been drinking alcohol or using drugs.

As a parent, what can you do to minimize the risks?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests creating a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement that clearly sets expectations and limits. Sit with your teen and write down the hazards of driving while impaired and the consequences for breaking the rules. Put it on your refrigerator and update it as your teen gains experience and more driving privileges. (Visit cdc.gov for a sample agreement.)

If your teen plans to go to a party, make sure you talk to the parents where the festivities are being held. Ask if there will be supervision and if alcohol is being served—and if your teens are under 21, the answer should be a resounding no.

Despite taking all precautions, your teens may find themselves in a situation where they are being pressured to drink or use drugs. Tell them that you will be willing and able to get them at any time during the night—and that if they or their friends have been drinking or using drugs, they should contact you for a ride.

As parents, we must do all we can to educate our kids about the dangers of driving while impaired, but we also need to face the reality that even “good” kids can start heading down a dangerous path. Keep the lines of communication open, and if you suspect there may be a problem, consider contacting a professional who is trained in alcohol and substance use.

Bottom line: Let your teen know that driving requires their full attention, so marijuana, alcohol or any kind of substances are not allowed – and that means no texting, too!

 

Dr. Nellie Taylor-Walthrust is the Director of at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center’s Leeds Place, which operates an Adolescent Outpatient Chemical Dependency Treatment Program. Substance use services include counseling youths who are alcohol and drug abusers, children who live in families with a parent who is suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction and youths who have co-occurring chemical dependency and mental health problems. Prevention services are offered to local school districts. Call (516) 626-1971 to learn more.

 

Photo credit (for the driving photo): Adobe Stock, By Habitante Stock

Fighting Against Fatigue for Parents of Special Needs Kids

Fighting Against Fatigue for Parents of Special Needs Kids

By Guest Blogger Emily Graham

As the parent of a child with special needs, I often find myself feeling exhausted. It can be a lot of work to meet my child’s unique needs, and there are often barely enough hours in the day to get everything done. What’s more, I often feel like I’m operating on constant high alert, always ready to deal with whatever challenges my child may face.

As a result, fatigue is a common problem for parents like me. And it’s not just physical fatigue – I often find myself feeling emotionally and mentally drained as well. It can be hard to keep up with everything, and it’s easy to feel like I’m not doing enough. But I try to remind myself that I’m doing the best I can, and that’s all anyone can ask for. Raising a child with special needs is a unique challenge, but it’s also a rewarding one.

And even on the toughest days, I know that it’s all worth it.

What’s more, I know I’m not alone here. According to research, over 3 million children in the U.S. have a disability of some kind. These kids face many challenges — and so do their parents. Parenting a child with special needs is often a full-time job, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the daily responsibilities. It’s no surprise, then, that many special needs parents often experience parental fatigue. Though parental fatigue can feel inescapable, this article will help you find ways to mitigate the problem.

Address Any Potential Health Struggles

If you’re not sure whether you are experiencing parental fatigue, there are a few red flags you can look for. Have you been losing sleep? Do you feel like you’re failing as a parent? Have you been struggling with depression or other mental health issues? If you answered yes to these questions, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with parental fatigue.

The latter of these symptoms — mental health struggles — is a particularly concerning issue. If you are depressed, it’s important to seek help from a psychiatric professional. You may receive a prescription for antidepressants. The medication chosen will depend on your symptoms, whether you are on any other medication, and whether you have pre-existing conditions. Although antidepressants aren’t always the right treatment, your provider can help you monitor potential side effects and gauge whether the medication is effective.

Seeking treatment for your mental and physical health is an important part of lowering your fatigue levels. You can improve both by making improvements to your lifestyle, too. Adopting a diet that’s rich in nutrients and low in processed foods has been shown to reduce the inflammation that’s associated with depression. It will also likely improve your energy levels and physical health. 

Make Time for Self-Care Activities

Taking care of your physical and mental health is important, but it’s also the bare minimum. In order to effectively combat fatigue, you should truly invest in yourself — and this means creating a self-care regimen. It’s important to find a balance between parenting and self-care, though. Overindulging in self-care can leave your family feeling neglected.

One of the best forms of self-care is pursuing a personal goal. If you’ve always dreamed of going back to school, for example, there are options you can explore. Say you’re interested in learning skills to open your own business. There are various business degrees available through online universities that can help you achieve these goals. What’s more, with multiple start times and the ability to learn from home on your own schedule, you won’t have to worry about making time to attend a traditional in-person class.

Don’t Succumb to Burnout from Parenting

There are so many responsibilities to juggle when you’re a parent to a child with special needs. If you’re dealing with depression, though, it’s imperative not to ignore the problem. Similarly, if you have dreams of going back to school, you shouldn’t put them on the back burner. Ignoring your own needs will only worsen parental fatigue. Find a way to enjoy life and be the best parent you can be — that’s all you can do!

Bio: Emily Graham is the creator of Mighty Moms. She believes being a mom is one of the hardest jobs around and wanted to create a support system for moms from all walks of life. On her site, she offers a wide range of info tailored for busy moms — from how to reduce stress to creative ways to spend time together as a family.

YOU Can Make a Difference!

YOU Can Make a Difference!

North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center is so grateful to those who donate to our mission of bringing hope and healing to kids and families struggling with mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety and suicidal thinking. Without your generosity, we couldn’t provide these lifesaving services.

There are so many ways to give, in ways both large and small. Some of our donors choose to put us in their estate plans, like our dear friends highlighted on our Legacy Wall of Respect at our Roslyn Heights headquarters. Others have made substantial gifts to support our Douglas S. Feldman Suicide Prevention Project, and they are honored with beautiful brass name plaques on our Butterfly Wall.

Others contribute through a Qualified Charitable Distribution, also commonly known as an IRA Charitable Rollover gift.

Many of our supporters buy tickets and/or sponsorships to our special fundraisers held throughout the year, including our Spring Luncheon, which will be held on April 27th, our Jonathan Krevat Memorial Golf & Tennis Classic on June 5th and our spectacular Annual Gala on September 28th.

Financial support also comes to us in the form of corporate matching gifts and/or workplace giving opportunities.  Check to see if your company can match your gift.

In addition, monthly donations through our $10 on the 10th program, memorial gifts and gifts in honor of a loved one are always appreciated.

But financial contributions aren’t the only way to support our work. Options include joining one of our event committees, volunteering at our Children’s Center at Nassau County Family Court or connecting us with your company.

Whatever way you give back, please know that your generosity means the world to us – and to the children and families we are so privileged to serve.

We’re here for them because YOU are here for us. Thank you for your generosity!

If you wish to learn more about how to make a gift of any kind, please contact Lauren McGowan, Director of Development, at 516-626-1971, ext. 320 or email her at lmcgowan@northshorechildguidance.org

Post-Holiday Blues

Post-Holiday Blues

By Guest Blogger Aieshah Ashfer

As we all start to get used to the rhythm of the new year by embracing new beginnings, we may begin to feel as if we are in an unwanted emotional slump. Going back to work, school and the rigid routines we’ve formed for ourselves after a period of rest and relaxation isn’t easy. This is especially the case when bouncing back from the holiday season. The letdown we feel after the holidays can be described as the “post-holiday blues.”

What are post-holiday blues?

Post-holiday blues share many of the same characteristic symptoms of an anxiety or mood disorder: insomnia, low energy, irritability, difficulty concentrating and anxiousness. The abrupt withdrawal of stress hormones after a major event –  in this case, the holidays – can greatly impact our biological and psychological well-being. Even if your holidays weren’t as merry as they could have been, the brain heavily exaggerates the realities of day-to-day life, making the return to the mundane seem profoundly more anxiety-inducing and saddening than it actually is.

What causes post-holiday blues?

The exact cause of these feelings will vary from person to person, but often they are triggered by unrealistic expectations of what the holiday season should be like. Post-holiday blues are often the result of failing to put boundaries on demands and then feeling sad about the outcome.

How do I cope with post-holiday blues?

There are several ways to cope if you feel down after the holidays. One way to do this is through a small gratitude practice. List the things you are thankful for and make that a daily practice combined with meditation; that simple act can really reframe the way that you manage your day and manage some of these stressors. Exercise can also help you deal with feelings of sadness after the holidays. Physical activity reduces stress and stimulates the production of feel-good chemicals, also known as endorphins. So can volunteering and giving back to your local community. It can also help to seek out humor, such as watching funny movies or TV shows, because laughter releases endorphins. Finding a trusted person to talk to about your feelings, such as a friend or a therapist, is especially beneficial. It can be harder to manage sadness or guilt if you keep them bottled up, but talking through those feelings can help to validate them.

Dealing with post-holiday blues isn’t easy. It is normal to feel these emotions after a big anticipated event like the holidays, but knowing that there are numerous healthy ways to cope with this letdown makes it much easier to get through it.

Interview With a High School Social Worker

Interview With a High School Social Worker

By Guest Blogger Aieshah Ashfer

Aieshah: Can you tell me what you do daily as a High School Social Worker?

Mrs. Sheets: Every day is different. I typically have each period of the day scheduled by students who want to come in for a group session or an individual session. The framework that I use is dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and I also utilize the strengths perspective. I use DBT to help students understand and accept their difficult feelings, and learn skills to manage them. CBT is used to connect thoughts, behaviors, and emotions together. I use the strengths of each student and treat them with unconditional positive regard in our sessions. Overall, I try to destigmatize reaching out for help and I try to make the environment seem comfortable and warm for students to be able to reach out.

Aieshah: You are around students all the time. What are the main stressors in high school? Any specific ones this time of year?

Mrs. Sheets: At our school, I think there is a lot of pressure to be successful. That’s the number one stressor that I see here. I think students internalize that pressure and then what comes out is anxiety and depression, fear of failure, and perfectionism. At times I also see students neglecting their sleep, social relationships, and passions; these are all the things that make us human. I think sometimes we focus so much on being intelligent and successful, that we forget the other things that balance us out. I also feel students can’t talk to people in their lives for support and I think sometimes they feel what they’re going through is not valid. At this time of year, midterms seem to highlight students’ pressure on themselves and their need to succeed as well as the neglect of their health. These are the biggest stressors.

Aieshah: What are some ways to properly cope with the stress of finals and midterms?

Mrs. Sheets: When it comes to big tests like midterms, finals and even SATs, I feel that preparation is key. The best way to take these on is to make a schedule to study regularly weeks before. I see a lot of students at times will procrastinate and cram all their studying for the last day, and I think that builds even more pressure. Even studying for five minutes a day is better than not studying at all and cramming. Let yourself balance your activities so that you’re not sacrificing sleep and social interaction. Everything should be within balance, especially during these testing seasons. Since midterms also come after the holidays I think we’re left with a lot of mixed emotions; around the holidays can be one of the most depressing times of the year. Self-care is tuning into that and recognizing that this time of the year is stressful, and doing something that helps you; this can be listening to music or spending time talking to your friends. Have a little thing to look forward to each day, like meditating or exercise.

Aieshah: Is there a quick meditation technique you would recommend for stressed-out students?

Mrs. Sheets: I think you mentioning “quick” is very important. Students often say they can’t take the time out to meditate during the day. This is where our technology comes in and is so valuable to us. If you just go on YouTube to find a one-minute meditation tutorial, you’re able to take a short break and relax. I tell students who don’t want to compromise any time that they can meditate while they’re doing any task– for example, brushing their teeth. Put on a one-minute meditation video so you’re able to take a break. Even a small meditation break is an important one.

Aieshah: What are some resolutions students should keep to avoid academic stress and burnout for the new year?

Mrs. Sheets: I think a resolution students should set is to focus on progress, not perfection. This can be done through positive self-talk; it sounds unrealistic at times but can really bring us up from negative places. Even when it comes to homework, instead of saying “I have to do this,” start to say “I want to do this because I want to earn a positive grade.” Keeping a neutral mindset after setbacks as well can really help you in the future. But being able to talk to yourself positively is extremely important and will help you to more easily accomplish tasks. Positive self-talk and progress over perfection should be the things we bring into 2023.

Free Support Group for Grandparents of Autistic Kids

Free Support Group for Grandparents of Autistic Kids

When a child faces a mental health challenge, the entire family is impacted. But while people may sympathize with parents and siblings, they often forget that grandparents also struggle with feelings of sadness and helplessness.

That’s why North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center (the Guidance Center) runs a free support group just for grandparents whose grandchildren are on the autism spectrum: GASAK, for Grandparent Advocates Supporting Autistic Kids.

GASAK’s mission is to support, inform and advocate for grandparents with autistic grandchildren. At meetings held on the last Thursday of each month, GASAK participants network and share information on issues critical to families impacted by autism. New members are welcome to join at any time.

While the program isn’t new, it recently returned to in-person meetings at the Guidance Center’s Marks Family Right from the Start 0-3+ Center in Manhasset after being virtual since the start of the pandemic.

While there are many programs for parents of autistic children, few if any address the specific issues that come up for grandparents, said Dr. Sue Cohen, Director of Clinical Services at Right from the Start. “Sometimes the parents are overwhelmed dealing with their children’s needs,” she said. “At GASAK meetings, grandparents can share their own concerns with their peers.”

One GASAK member said, “A lot of times your friends can’t relate to what you’re going through, but when you walk into the GASAK group, you feel comfortable instantly. Nobody judges you.”

The program occasionally features guest speakers, including education lawyers, social workers, special education advocates and others. “When a grandparent leaves a meeting,” said Cohen, “they walk away with information that can make a huge difference in the lives of their children and grandchildren.”

But the camaraderie members experience is perhaps the most important benefit of the group. Case in point: one grandmother who has two autistic grandsons who were nonverbal until they were three years old. When one of them said “Mom” for the first time, the GASAK group celebrated her good news. “There is such compassion among members,” she said. “And by sharing our worries as well as our joyful moments, we give new members hope.”

In addition, the Guidance Center provides a variety of therapeutic services for children on the autism spectrum, as well as their parents and other family members. They also provide testing for preschool-age children to young adults.

To learn more about the GASAK group and all the Guidance Center’s services, contact Cohen at 516-484-3174 or email scohen@northshorechildguidance.org.

About Us:

As the preeminent not-for-profit children’s mental health agency on Long Island, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center is dedicated to restoring and strengthening the emotional well-being of children (from birth – age 24) and their families. Our highly trained staff of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, vocational rehabilitation counselors and other mental health professionals lead the way in diagnosis, treatment, prevention, training, parent education, research and advocacy. The Guidance Center helps children and families address issues such as depression and anxiety; developmental delays; bullying; teen pregnancy; sexual abuse; teen drug and alcohol abuse; and family crises stemming from illness, death, trauma and divorce. For nearly 70 years, the Guidance Center has been a place of hope and healing, providing innovative and compassionate treatment to all who enter our doors, regardless of their ability to pay. For more information about the Guidance Center, visit www.northshorechildguidance.org or call (516) 626-1971.

8 New Year’s Resolutions for Parents

8 New Year’s Resolutions for Parents

By Kathy Rivera

This column appeared in January 11, 2023 issue of Anton Media newspapers

All of us have experienced unprecedented challenges in the last three years, resulting in heightened levels of anxiety and stress. So much is out of our control, and that can feel overwhelming. But there are steps you can take to safeguard your wellbeing and that of your family.

As you welcome in 2023, take the opportunity to put into place some of these eight resolutions to start the New Year off right.

  1. Tune in and turn off: Sure, your kids need to be told to put the phones away at the dinner table and when they’re doing homework. But they’re not the only ones who overuse the tech gadgets. When you are with your kids, be fully present. The years really do fly by.
  1. Be a role model: Believe it or not, your children and teens look to you as their example of how to act in the world. For your sake and theirs, eat healthfully and exercise, spend more time outdoors, and be sure to…
  1. Put self-care in your list of priorities: As parents, we sometimes think our job is to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of our children. But if you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll have nothing left to give them. Take the time to engage in activities that make you feel happy, confident and healthy.
  1. Don’t compare yourself to other parents or your kids to other kids: Facebook and other social media platforms make it look like every parent has the perfect child—the honor student, star athlete, community volunteer, etc. But these are just self-selected pieces of information and don’t paint a true picture. Every parent faces challenges, and no one is perfect.
  1. Don’t take the bait: Kids push our buttons, there’s no doubt about it. But when you respond to your tot’s tantrum with a tantrum of your own, it doesn’t help the situation and only creates more chaos. When they are acting up, take a deep breath and remember that the goal is to respond thoughtfully, not react impulsively. One way to hone this skill is to…
  1. Practice meditation. Numerous studies show that even a few minutes a day of meditation will help reduce your stress. Not sure how? Google “how to meditate” and you’ll find lots of helpful tips and videos. You can also google “meditation on Long Island” to find a group. And invite your kids to try it out, too! Let them know supercool celebrities and athletes like Selena Gomez, Lady Gaga, Lizzo, Derek Jeter and LeBron James are big meditators.
  1. Listen closely and talk less: When our children come to us with problems, it’s our natural inclination to try to fix things for them. But the reality is, often what they need is just to be heard. Make a promise to yourself that you will listen to your kids and not jump in right away to solve the problem. To open the lines of communication, simply ask, How are you feeling?
  1. Pay attention and give praise: The way you communicate with your child not only teaches them how to communicate with others, it shapes their emotional development and how they build relationships later in life. Giving your child positive attention for good behavior can boost their self-esteem, improve your relationship and help your child understand the behaviors you like and want to see more often.

Wishing you and your family a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year!

 

Bio: Kathy Rivera, LCSW, the Executive Director/CEO of North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, Long Island’s leading non-profit children’s mental health organization. To get help for your child or to support the Guidance Center’s lifesaving work, call (516) 626-1971 or visit www.northshorechildguidance.org.

Staff’s Wishes for the New Year

Staff’s Wishes for the New Year

As we welcome 2023, we are grateful for the dedicated employees who make North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center such a valuable resource to our community. We are also thankful for all of you who support our work!
Each year, we ask our staff members what their hopes and dreams are for the year to come. Here are some of their responses.

“The New Year brings in new opportunities and new adventures. Wishing everyone a safe, healthy, and prosperous new year. May the tears you cried in 2022 water the seeds you’re planting in 2023.” – Kathy Rivera, LCSW, Executive Director/CEO

Photo: Kathy (left) with colleagues Joan and Nicole at our holiday party

“My hope for the New Year is for more kindness shared around the world. My wish for the New Year is for health and happiness for my family, my friends and my wonderful colleagues. My dream for the New Year is to help people in need of support/ guidance.” – Francesca Carbone, LMSW

Photo: Francesca

“I will be spending New Year’s Eve en route to Antarctica and my hope is for a safe crossing over the Drake passage!  I feel grateful for the opportunity to experience my 7th continent and am looking forward to more great travel adventures with my family in the future.” – Lauren McGowan, Director of Development

Photo: Dash McGowan

“My hope for the New Year is to continue to grow and learn.” – Diana Kutulos, LMSW

Photo: Buzz Kutulos

“My hope for the New Year is that everyone is healthy and cherishes time with their friends and families. To wake up each day and try to find peace within themselves and to spread that to those they encounter. I hope people find new friends, new hobbies, new passions that add joy into their lives. Happy New Year!” – Kate Braumuller, Research Coordinator

Photo: Kate and her grandmother celebrating the holidays

“My wish is for more happiness and peace in 2023.” – Nicole Oberheim, Development Manager

Photo: Andreas, Markus and Kiersten Oberheim

“Embracing the ‘gratitude train’ is something I want to work more on in the New Year.”

– Diane Stranieri, MS, RN

“My wishes for 2023 are good health, happiness and for the world to be a better place for EVERYONE! “ – Pascale Nerestant, Westbury Outreach Worker

Photo: Pascale

“My hopes/wishes/dreams for the new year are for myself and my family to remain healthy and to be at peace. I strive to continue being my best self.” – Dollicia M. Torres, Front Desk Coordinator

Photo: Dollicia

“My wish for the coming year is that all of the people that I care about, friends and family, find their peace, have things that bring them joy, and heal.  I hope that I can create a space for that to take place, a soft place to land when in stormy seas.  I want the best for everyone.  May we all always have a light in the dark.” – Marisa Padgett, LCSW

Photo: Rocket Padgett

“One of my hopes is that all shelter animals find loving homes. Rescue pets are the best!” – Jenna Kern-Rugile, Director of Communications

Photo: Jenna and Lucy

“My hopes for the New Year are for us all to have as much peace as possible!

– Gillian Uhl, LMSW

“May 2023 be filled with happiness and peace for all. Happy New Year!”  – Julia Bassin, LCSW

Photo caption: Piper and Lorelai Bassin

“My dream for the New Year is to start a podcast based around mental health. I want to spread awareness and be a voice for people who might not have the courage to do so. I want people to know how serious it is and how it could affect people and their families. My hope for the New Year is ending gun violence; a close family friend of mine lost a significant other due to gun violence and it’s just unacceptable. – Laisha Rivera, Support staff/front desk

Caption: Laisha

“May the New Year enhance appreciation for one’s blessings, incite deeper reflections, and pique one’s willingness to navigate intrepidly in opposition of life’s uncertainties”. -Lydiane Interdonato, MS, Community and Home-Based Services/Case Manager

Photo: Lydiane

“To lose enough weight so that ALL my clothes fit with enough room to breathe. To get closer to my higher power. Peace on Earth. Improve environmental woes all over the world. Guidance Center patients find hope and peace. Continue to build strength in the team meeting system.” – Ruthellen Trimmer, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner and Clinical Specialist

Photo: Ruthellen

Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

Newsday, January 4, 2023

Thank you for highlighting the crisis in access to mental health services among our youth as rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal thinking are at all-time highs in your cover story of December 27, 2022.

While the pandemic has exacerbated the struggles of children and teens, the difficulty in finding timely and affordable quality mental health care isn’t new. In 2017, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center conducted extensive research, spotlighted in our Project Access report, shining a light on the longstanding problem and advocating for strategies to effect change.

Throughout our 70-year history, we have been providing mental health services to the children and families of Nassau County within just days of receiving their call, and no one is ever turned away for inability to pay. Kids in crisis can’t wait weeks or months for help.

Kathy Rivera
Executive Director/CEO
North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center
Roslyn Heights, NY

How to Keep Your Teen Safe on New Year’s Eve

How to Keep Your Teen Safe on New Year’s Eve

By Dr. Nellie-Taylor Walthrust, this story was published in Anton Media.

Many parents worry throughout the year about their teens’ exposure to alcohol and drugs, but the concern is magnified when talk of New Year’s Eve parties enters the conversation.

While you don’t want to spoil their opportunity to ring in the New Year with their friends, especially after nearly three years of pandemic disruption, the thought of them being at parties where alcohol and possibly drugs are being used is justifiably concerning.

The biggest risk that kids face on New Year’s Eve – or any day of the year, for that matter – is being involved in a car accident. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, with eight teens ages 13 to 19 dying every day from motor vehicle crash injuries.

Additional statistics point out the risks:

  • 23% of teens admit they have driven under the influence of alcohol, prescription drugs or marijuana.
  • Teen drivers 16-19 have a fatal crash rate almost three times as high as drivers ages 20 and older.
  • 60% of all teen deaths from car accidents involve alcohol.
  • 24% of teens reported that within the previous month, they had ridden with a driver who had been drinking alcohol or using drugs.

As a parent, what can you do to minimize the risks?

If your teens plan to go to a party, make sure you talk to the parents where the festivities are being held. Your teen might be horrified at this prospect, but you have every right to discuss your expectations with the hosts. Ask if alcohol is being served (and if your teens are under 21, the answer should be a resounding no). Ask if the parents will be home at all times during the party. If they won’t, don’t be afraid to tell your teens they aren’t allowed to go.

Once you are assured that parents will be there to supervise and the party is alcohol-free, nail down the details. That means finding out who is driving them and taking them home (the safest choice is for you to take on that role). Set a reasonable curfew based on their age. Young teens don’t need to be out past midnight, and even older kids can call it quits shortly after the clock strikes 12.

Establish a plan to check in several times during the night. Make it clear ahead of time that if you call or text and get no answer, you will be heading over to get them.

Not comfortable with the level of supervision at the party? Help your teens create alternative plans. The best way to know your kids are safe and in a supervised environment is to host the gathering at your home. Give them free reign in choosing decorations, food, music and other entertainment ideas, but make it clear that alcohol and drugs are forbidden.

Despite taking all precautions, the reality is that your teens may find themselves in a situation where they are being pressured to drink or use drugs. Tell them that you will be willing and able to get them at any time during the night—and that if they or their friends have been drinking, the most important thing is for them to contact you for a ride.

As parents, we must do all we can to educate our kids about the dangers of underage drinking, but we also need to face the reality that even “good” kids can start heading down a dangerous path. Keep the lines of communication open, and if you suspect there may be a problem, consider contacting a professional who is trained in alcohol and substance use.

Dr. Nellie Taylor-Walthrust is the Director of at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center’s Leeds Place, which operates an Adolescent Outpatient Chemical Dependency Treatment Program. Substance use services include counseling youths who are alcohol and drug abusers, children who live in families with a parent who is suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction and youths who have co-occurring chemical dependency and mental health problems. Prevention services are offered to local school districts. Call (516) 626-1971 to find out more.

Talking About Weight with Your Kids

Talking About Weight with Your Kids

 

By Dr. Sue Cohen, November 23, 2022

The holidays are here, and it’s not uncommon for people of all ages, including children, to pack on extra pounds. The sugary treats and heavy meals are abundant, and many kids tend to be less active during the colder weather.

But regardless of the season, it’s always a good time to talk to your kids about healthy eating—especially with many adults and children alike having put on weight from stress eating and inactivity due to the pandemic.

Sadly, being significantly overweight is common. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s. Today, nearly 1 in 5 school age U.S. children and young people (6 to 19 years) is considered obese. When you factor in those who are considered overweight but not yet obese, the figure rises to 31%.

Why the dramatic increase? Behavior and habits are the most likely factors, with technology playing a big role. Many families have become sedentary, with TV, computers and videogames as the culprits. And it’s not just the kids; parents, too, are often modeling these behaviors.

Of course, shaming a child for being overweight is never appropriate. From a very early age, parents should nurture a positive body image with their kids, focusing on their bodies as the miracles they are!  But if your child’s or teen’s weight has become a health concern, you can address it in a loving, non-critical way.

Approach the issue as a family topic rather than focusing on an individual child. The message should be that we all need to eat more healthy foods like fruit, vegetables and lean proteins and less fatty, fried or sugary foods so we feel better and have more energy. You don’t want to make your child feel badly about themselves, so focusing on healthy eating and activity rather than appearance is extremely important.

Here are some guidelines when broaching the subject of weight with your children, as per recommendations from The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

Foster open dialogue. Encourage your kids to share their thoughts and feelings about body image. When children discuss feelings about weight, be sure to listen and acknowledge that the feelings are real. Explain that people come in all different shapes and sizes, and you love your child no matter what.

Don’t make negative comments. Judging your own body or your child’s can result in lasting detrimental effects to your child’s body image and relationship with food. Set a good example for children in the way you talk about your own body as well as others.

Take action. Children learn fast, and they learn best by example. Teach children habits that will help keep them healthy for life. Make it easy for kids to eat smart and move often. Look for ways to spend fun, active time together.

Avoid the blame game. Never yell, scream, bribe, threaten or punish children about weight, food or physical activity. If you turn these issues into parent-child battlegrounds, the results can be harmful. Shame, blame and anger are setups for failure.

Talk with your healthcare provider. If a health professional mentions a concern about your child’s weight, speak with the professional privately. Discuss specific concerns and ask for suggestions on making positive changes in your family’s eating habits and activity levels.

Seek advice. Look for a registered dietitian with a specialty in pediatric weight management. Many hospitals and clinics have comprehensive programs with education and activities for both kids and adult family members. Some of these options may be covered by your health insurance plan.

An important final note: If you are among the Long Islanders whose financial issues make it difficult to access healthy, fresh foods, don’t despair. Community Solidarity shares nutritious food to those in need, with 50% of that being fresh produce. To find out more, visit communitysolidarity.org.

Dr. Sue Cohen is the Director of Director of Clinical Services at Right from the Start at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, the leading children’s mental health agency on Long Island. Learn more at www.northshorechildguidance.org.

Is a Pet Good for my Child’s Mental Health

Is a Pet Good for my Child’s Mental Health

 

Ask the Guidance Center Experts, December 6, 2022

In this monthly column, therapists from North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center answer your questions on issues related to parenting, mental health and children’s well-being. To submit a question, email communications@northshorechildguidance.org.

Question: My son is begging my wife and me to get him a dog for the holidays. We both grew up having dogs in our homes and found it to be very rewarding. But we also know that it’s a lot of work and takes a big commitment to care for a pet – especially a dog! We are inclined to say yes, especially since the pandemic left him feeling pretty low, and we hope this will lift his spirits. Plus, he promises he’ll take on the bulk of the responsibility. What do you think we should do?
— Pet Parenting Puzzle

Dear Anxious Parents: You are wise to take this decision very seriously. Dogs, as well as other pets, do require a lot of care, and if you are lucky, they will be part of your family for many years to come.

You’re also right in realizing that pets can offer many mental health benefits for kids. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, developing loving feelings about pets can contribute to a child’s self-confidence. Positive relationships with pets can aid in the development of trusting relationships with others. And a good relationship with a pet can help in developing non-verbal communication, compassion and empathy.

Some other benefits: Having pets leads to an increase in physical activity; reduces stress; provides companionship and social support; and fosters a connection with the natural world.

Pets provide unconditional love, which is important for every child, but especially helpful for kids who are having difficulties with depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. In fact, research indicates that children with pets tend to have higher levels of self-worth compared to those who don’t have animals. They can also help children with issues such as shyness and autism with their social skills.

All kids, whether or not they have mental health challenges, benefit from their relationships with animals, but if you are considering bringing a pet into your family, here are some factors to consider:

  1. Kids will promise the moon and stars to get a pet, but as the adult, you are likely to be the one who does most of the caretaking, so make sure you are ready for the responsibility.
  2. Take finances into consideration. Caring for pets can be an expensive proposition, with estimates running from $500 to well over $1,000 each year.
  3. Do you have little ones in the house? Children under three or four need to be supervised with pets at all times, since they may be impulsive and risk harming the pet or themselves.
  4. When choosing a pet, do your research. The pet should be a good match for your lifestyle. For example, if you live in an apartment, you might want to avoid getting a highly active dog. But if you have a fenced-in yard and enjoy tossing the ball around, an energetic pup may be the right fit.
  5. Are you out of the house for a large part of the day? Pets require care and love, so if you and your family aren’t home most of the time, a dog or even a cat might not be the right pet for you.
  6. Do your kids have asthma or other allergies? Despite the hype, there really are no allergy-free cats or dogs—but there are some breeds that are less allergenic than others. Ask your vet for suggestions.

Adopting from a shelter is a great way to save the life of an animal.  If you decide that you want a specific breed or your heart is set on the type of dog you had as a kid, consider a rescue or shelter pet. Either way, always make sure you speak with the shelter or breeder about the individual history and personality of your prospective pet. Everything is not always apparent when a fury creature is first introduced at a visit.

Whatever you decide, we wish you and your family a happy and healthy holiday!

North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, Long Island’s leading children’s mental health organization, is seeing clients both remotely via telehealth platforms and in person, depending on the clients’ needs. No one is ever turned away for inability to pay. To make an appointment, call 516-626-1971 or email intake@northshorechildguidance.org.

Kids Like Elaina Thank You for Your Generosity!

Kids Like Elaina Thank You for Your Generosity!

At North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, our promise is to see children from birth through age 24. In the last year, we have served an increasing number of young children who have experienced enormous trauma due to the pandemic.

Thankfully, we have a dedicated team of therapists who are specially trained to work with our youngest clients, employing creative approaches that help little ones move from hurting to healing.

We wanted to share with you a beautiful letter and drawing we received from one of those youngsters, a girl named Elaina.

We’ll let her words and images tell the story.

 

All of us at the Guidance Center are so grateful to all of you who support our work. Because we never turn anyone away for inability to pay, we count on your generosity to help us give children like Elaina the help they need to bring joy back into their young lives.

Thank you for caring for kids!

A Day (and Season) of Giving!

A Day (and Season) of Giving!

Congratulations! You’ve survived the whirlwind of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Phew! First, take some time to enjoy the outdoors with your family, maybe jumping in some piles of leaves with your little one!

But after that, remember that today is the day to do something to make you feel good while doing good for others!

Today is Giving Tuesday, when people across the globe join together to make the world a better place.

On this special day, please support the mental health of the children and families in your community by donating as generously as possible to North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center.

But don’t stop there!

From Thursday Dec. 1 through Saturday Dec. 3, shop at Americana Manhasset’s Champions for Charity® and designate North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center as your charity of choice! 25% of your designated full-price, pre-tax purchases will be donated back to us! Select stores at Wheatley Plaza also take part. Simply register for your Champion Number (It’s free) at championsforcharity.org and present it at the time of each purchase.

Finally, don’t forget to shop year-round through AmazonSmile at no extra cost to you. Just click on North Shore Child & Family Guidance Association here to register us as your charity of choice.

Thank you!

 

Why Support the Guidance Center?

Below are some comments from some of our most dedicated donors about why they spend their philanthropic dollars to support the Guidance Center’s mission.

Rosemarie and Mitchell Klipper

Rosemarie and Mitchell Klipper

The connection between Board Member Rosemarie Klipper and the Guidance Center has been a strong one for many years, as she and her husband Mitchell are always giving of their time, financial resources and creative ideas. “As you give to others, you’re helping yourself as well,” says Rosemarie. “It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to make a difference in peoples’ lives. I encourage everyone to get involved by giving to such a wonderful organization as the Guidance Center.”

 

Andrea and Michael Leeds

Andrea and Michael Leeds

Board Member Andrea Leeds and her husband Michael are longtime devoted supporters who continually amaze us with their dedication to our work. “The Guidance Center’s programs continue to grow to meet the needs of children dealing with difficult personal issues like depression, anxiety, bullying and so many others,” says Andrea. “The mission is more important now than ever during the COVID crisis, with illness, death and trauma having a devastating impact on the children and families in our community.”

National Grid volunteers work on our Nature Nurser

National Grid

“We know mental health is so important to all in our community, and it’s key to have places like the Guidance Center to help families and children on Long Island,” says National Grid’s Kathy Wisnewski. “National Grid is dedicated to investing in our youth, and we want to make sure we are doing everything we can to support the mental health of the next generation of leaders.”

Daniel Donnelly

Dan Donnelly

Dan Donnelly says that the work the Guidance Center does for children on Long Island is what motivates him to be such a dedicated supporter.  But he also credits his admiration for the staff. “The people you have working here are such caring souls,” he says. “Life is about people and connecting. The relationships that I have with the Guidance Center staff and support team are one of the reasons why I stay involved.”

Jane and Marty Schwartz

Jane Schwartz

Our former Board President Jane Schwartz has been a dedicated friend and supporter of the Guidance Center for more than five decades. “The Guidance Center “provides a wonderful service to the Long Island community, with caring, dedicated staff members and a Board of Directors that are so devoted to helping all children and families, including those who cannot afford to pay for services.”

Some Thoughts on Gratitude

Some Thoughts on Gratitude

November is National Gratitude Month, and we asked our staff members to tell us what they are grateful for.

North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center is grateful for all of you who support our work during this holiday season and throughout the year. Your generosity is the reason we have been able to bring hope and healing to the children and families of Long Island for nearly 70 years.

Thank you, and have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m grateful for being able to partake in my passion of traveling to different countries again and embracing their beauty. – Kathy Rivera, Executive Director/CEO

I am grateful for many things, one being my family. When I was younger, I was diagnosed with HPV and was told I might never be able to have kids. Today I am happily married and a mother of three beautiful children. I am forever grateful to God for giving the beautiful gift of being a mother; they are my strength and fill my life with so much joy every day. I am also grateful for my husband who is an extraordinary partner and amazing father to our children. And last but not least, I am grateful for both my mother and mother-in-law who are still with us and get to see their grandkids grow.  – Joselyn Alberto, Assistant to the Director of Outpatient Operations, Regulatory Compliance & Quality Assurance Officer

I am grateful for nature and overall, the fall season. November is actually my favorite month for many reasons. Some of them being trees (I take many, many pictures of them), spending time with family on thanksgiving, and it’s also my birthday month! – Evelyn Turcios, Bilingual Social Worker

I’m grateful for my family! – Holly Abro, Therapist

I’m grateful for my loving husband who is supportive, helpful, and loves me for who I am. I’m also grateful for my fur baby, Spike. Spike suffered through a severe case of Pancreatitis several months ago and we didn’t know if he was going to survive. I am so grateful for God giving me more time with my fur baby Spike. I am more appreciative of Spike than ever before after almost losing him. Spike is emotionally supportive for me and loves me more than he loves himself! He’s my best friend –  he’s family! – Lucille Buscemi, Peer Recovery Specialist 

I am grateful for my family, friends and supportive work colleagues. – Dr. Sue Cohen, Director of Early Childhood & Psychological Services

I am grateful for all the wonderful and talented people who make working here at the Guidance Center such a privilege! – Lauren McGowan, Director of Development

I am grateful to be a daughter/caregiver to this lovely lady who is 84 years old and blind. Doesn’t she look lovely? -Dr. Nellie Taylor-Walthrust, Director of the Leeds Place

My 10-year-old puppy, Lucy, who greets me with such joy each day, gives me reason to be grateful every day of the year. – Jenna Kern-Rugile, Director of Development

I am grateful for my relationship with God, my boys, home, job, dancing hobby and health! – Monica Doyley, Head Teacher, Children’s Center at Nassau County Family Court

I’m grateful for my siblings. – Stacy Brief, Therapist