Suicide Prevention for Parents: Know the Signs

Suicide Prevention for Parents: Know the Signs

Published in Newsday, September 12, 2022, Guest Essay By Kathy Rivera

I’ve been a social worker my entire adult life. I grew up in a household and a culture where talking about mental health was not allowed and mental wellbeing was not acknowledged or supported. The stigma was strong, but it only made me more determined to shed light on these issues and let people know it is perfectly normal to seek help.

But five years ago, when my then-15-year-old son came to me and said, “I don’t want to live anymore,” I was in total shock.

Not only was he having suicidal thoughts, he had also begun to formulate a plan—a prime indicator that the danger was real and imminent.

I felt overwhelmed because my child was hurting, and I also felt a deep sense of shame. How did I not see this coming? I had all the clinical knowledge to recognize the signs. It’s not that I didn’t know he had challenges. I just hadn’t realized it had reached a crisis point.

My family’s story is all too common, especially as young people struggle with the trauma caused by the pandemic. Children, teens and young adults have experienced the losses surrounding COVID-19 in deep and potentially long-lasting ways. Studies have reported sharp increases in rates of depression, anxiety, loneliness, and suicide attempts.

Trauma in children and teens is at an all-time high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than a third of high school students said they experienced poor mental health during the pandemic; 44% reported feeling “persistently sad or hopeless.” One in five considered suicide; nearly 10% attempted it.

But the youth mental health crisis pre-dates the pandemic.  In 2018, suicide was the second-leading cause of death among 10-to-24-year-olds, an increase of nearly 60% from 2007. Moreover, suicide rates among 10-to-12-year-olds increased nearly fivefold from 2010 to 2020.

Studies suggest that social media use and cyberbullying in particular contribute to depression, low self-esteem and other mental health issues that influence suicidal behavior, especially in girls. Tragic events such as mass shootings in schools have led to unprecedented levels of anxiety among youth. A lack of timely, affordable mental health care, economic struggles, and the epidemic of drug use also likely play a role.

While the picture seems bleak, there is a lot you can do to keep your child safe. Watch out for common warning signs of suicide, including withdrawing from friends and family, mood swings, engaging in risky or self-destructive behavior, changes in eating or sleeping patterns, increased use of drugs or alcohol, giving away possessions, posting suicidal thoughts on social media, and talking about death and not being around anymore.

We are lucky our son chose to tell us he was suicidal. We immediately sought professional help, and today, though he is not without struggles, he strives to maintain a balance with his mental wellness every day. We keep the lines of communication open, and assure him that we are there for him.

Ask your kids how they are feeling on a regular basis, even if they seem fine. Ask directly if they are having thoughts of suicide. Talking about suicide doesn’t make it more likely that they’ll consider the idea. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Make talking about mental health the same as talking about any illness. We must all play a role in breaking the stigma and helping other children who may be hurting. Compassionate communication can save a life.

This guest essay reflects the views of Kathy Rivera, Executive Director and CEO of North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center in Roslyn Heights.

Kathy Rivera

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

Kenny G to Perform at Guidance Center Gala, August 12, 2022, Blank Slate Media

Kenny G to Perform at Guidance Center Gala, August 12, 2022, Blank Slate Media

 

North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center (the Guidance Center) is thrilled to announce that Grammy-winning musician Kenny G will be the guest performer at the organization’s Sunset Soirée, a fundraiser that will be held on Sept. 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the beautiful Manhasset Bay Yacht Club in Port Washington.

Saxophonist Kenny G recorded the best-selling instrumental album of all time in the Diamond-selling, 12-times-Platinum 1992 “Breathless.” His latest release, “New Standards,” his 19th studio album, could well be used to describe his four-decade body of work, a vision of jazz that helped launch both a musical genre and radio format.

“New Standards” continues the musical path that has seen Kenny G sell 75 million albums around the world.

In addition to a live performance by Kenny G, the Sunset Soirée will feature elegant cocktails and dining, beautiful sunset views and fabulous silent auction prizes. All proceeds will benefit the Guidance Center, Long Island’s premiere children’s mental health nonprofit organization.

“After having to postpone our in-person event for the past two years due to the pandemic, we are so excited to be welcoming back our devoted supporters for what promises to be a spectacular evening,” said Kathy Rivera, executive director of the Guidance Center. “For nearly 70 years, the Guidance Center has been committed to providing essential mental health services to the children and families in our community, regardless of their ability to pay. And those services are needed more than ever during these very difficult times, when depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges are at epidemic proportions among our youth.”

The co-chairs for this year’s event are longtime Guidance Center supporters Nancy and Lew Lane and Andrea and Michael Leeds. The Mistress of Ceremonies will be Stacey Sager of Channel 7 Eyewitness News.

All proceeds will benefit the Guidance Center. To learn more about becoming a sponsor or an underwriter or purchasing tickets, please visit www.northshorechildguidance.org/sunsetsoiree, call (516) 626-1971, ext. 309 or email mespichan@northshorechildguidance.org.

Ask the Guidance Center Experts

Ask the Guidance Center Experts

Kindergarten Preparation, Published in Blank Slate Media, August 15, 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: We have twins, a girl and boy, and both are entering kindergarten in September. This is a first for our family, and we’re not sure if we are doing enough to prepare them, especially since their pre-school experience was limited due to the pandemic. Any advice?
–Anxious Parents

Dear Anxious Parents: You’re not alone in having concerns about your children adjusting to the new routine of “big kid” school. Even before the pandemic, parents often felt anxiety about the transition to kindergarten, but since many families chose to keep their children home while COVID-19 was in full swing, those worries may be magnified right now.

Since many youngsters have been taught to keep their distance from strangers in order to avoid getting sick, they may be more wary of being with new people. You can help reassure them that you, their teachers and others are working together to keep everyone safe and healthy. While COVID-19 has shown itself to be somewhat unpredictable, we are in a far better place than we were a few years ago with preventative measures and treatment, and that information can be imparted to ease your child’s anxiety.

Starting in a new school can be scary under any circumstances, but there are steps you can take to help. If your school allows it, plan to bring your child to their classroom to meet their teacher before the school year begins. Also take them to see the gym, the playground, cafeteria, library, nurse’s office and other locations. Even if the teacher won’t be available, familiarizing your child with the school and the routine will go far in reducing their fears.

Be careful not to put your own fears onto your child. A lot of parents reflect on their own first-day jitters, and they assume their child feels the same way. While a certain level of school anxiety is entirely normal in children, they are also likely to feel excited, so remember to focus on the positive aspects of school, such as making new friends, having lots of time to play and learning fun new things.

Below are some more suggestions to make the transition as smooth as possible:

  • Some schools help set up late summer playground events for incoming kindergartners. If they do, take advantage of the opportunity for your child to meet some new friends.
  • Talk about what they are going to learn; make a game of “playing school” by introducing some of the activities that go on in a typical school day.
  • Bring them with you when you shop for school supplies. Choosing their own folders, pencils, crayons and the like will make the experience feel special.
  • Get your child on a regular bedtime schedule before school begins so they are accustomed to getting up at the same time they’ll need to awaken for school.
  • Sit together and make a morning game plan—what are some breakfast ideas, which outfits will they want to wear their first week, and how they will be getting to school. If you can, do some practice runs (or walks) to the bus stop, if they’ll be taking one.
  • Teach your child their basic contact information, including the correct spelling of their name, their address and their phone number. Also help them practice writing their own names.
  • Make sure they know how to take their shoes on and off, and also how to zip up their backpacks.

When you give your youngsters a chance to talk about all their emotions and react calmly to whatever they say, it reassures them that everything will be fine. But if your child appears to be highly anxious and expresses reluctance to go to school after the first week or so, consider contacting a mental health professional. The pandemic has impacted children’s emotional well-being in numerous ways, so don’t hesitate to reach out for help.

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.

Kenny G to Perform at Guidance Center Gala, August 12, 2022, Blank Slate Media

Kenny G to perform at North Shore Child & Family Guidance fundraiser Long Island Business News, August 15, 2022

Grammy-winning jazz saxophonist Kenny G is the guest performer at the North Shore Child & Family Guidance fundraiser, which will be held Sept. 8 at 6:30 p.m. at Manhasset Bay Yacht Club in Port Washington.

Kenny G has sold 75 million albums across the world. His works including Breathless, the instrumental album released in 1992. His 19th studio album, New Standards, was released in 2021.

The evening will feature cocktails, dining, water views and auction proceeds, with all proceeds benefitting the Guidance Center, the children’s mental health nonprofit organization that has served Long Island for nearly 70 years.

“After having to postpone our in-person event for the past two years due to the pandemic, we are so excited to be welcoming back our devoted supporters for what promises to be a spectacular evening,” Kathy Rivera, executive director of the Guidance Center, said in a statement.

She added that the center “has been committed to providing essential mental health services to the children and families in our community, regardless of their ability to pay. And those services are needed more than ever during these very difficult times, when depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges are at epidemic proportions among our youth.”

The co-chairs for this year’s event are longtime Guidance Center supporters Nancy and Lew Lane and Andrea and Michael Leeds. The mistress of ceremonies will be Stacey Sager of Channel 7 Eyewitness News.

To learn more about becoming a sponsor or an underwriter or purchasing tickets, visit www.northshorechildguidance.org/sunsetsoiree.

Photo credit: Art Streiber

Kenny G to Perform at Guidance Center Gala, August 12, 2022, Blank Slate Media

Kenny G to Perform at Guidance Center Sunset Soirée

Roslyn Heights, NY, August 12,2022 — North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center (the Guidance Center) is thrilled to announce that Grammy-winning musician Kenny G will be the guest performer at the organization’s Sunset Soirée, a fundraiser that will be held on September 8, 2022 at 6:30 p.m. at the beautiful Manhasset Bay Yacht Club in Port Washington, N.Y.

Saxophonist Kenny G recorded the best-selling instrumental album of all time in the Diamond-selling, 12-times-Platinum 1992 Breathless. His latest release, New Standards, his 19th studio album, could well be used to describe his four-decade body of work, a vision of jazz that helped launch both a musical genre and radio format.  New Standards continues the musical path that has seen Kenny G sell 75 million albums around the world.

In addition to a live performance by Kenny G, the Sunset Soirée will feature elegant cocktails and dining, beautiful sunset views and fabulous silent auction prizes. All proceeds will benefit the Guidance Center, Long Island’s premiere children’s mental health nonprofit organization.

“After having to postpone our in-person event for the past two years due to the pandemic, we are so excited to be welcoming back our devoted supporters for what promises to be a spectacular evening,” said Kathy Rivera, Executive Director of the Guidance Center. “For nearly 70 years, the Guidance Center has been committed to providing essential mental health services to the children and families in our community, regardless of their ability to pay. And those services are needed more than ever during these very difficult times, when depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges are at epidemic proportions among our youth.”

The co-chairs for this year’s event are longtime Guidance Center supporters Nancy and Lew Lane and Andrea and Michael Leeds. The Mistress of Ceremonies will be Stacey Sager of Channel 7 Eyewitness News.

All proceeds will benefit the Guidance Center. To learn more about becoming a sponsor or an underwriter or purchasing tickets, please visit www.northshorechildguidance.org/sunsetsoiree, call (516) 626-1971, ext. 309 or email mespichan@northshorechildguidance.org.

Photo credit: Art Streiber

Guidance Center’s Innovative Program for Latina Teens

Guidance Center’s Innovative Program for Latina Teens

By Erika Perez-Tobon, Published in Anton Media Newspapers

One of North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center’s signature programs is the Latina Girls Project, which was created in response to the alarming rates of depression, school refusal, self-harm, suicidal ideation and attempted suicides by Hispanic teen girls.

More than a decade ago, our team at the Guidance Center noticed an increasingly large number of first-generation Latinas were coming to us with severe depression, self-harming behaviors and suicidal thoughts. Many had stopped attending school, and some had been hospitalized for suicide attempts.

The research backed up what we were seeing at the time: Hispanic teenage girls were significantly more likely than their non-Hispanic peers to suffer from depression, thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts. More recent research, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showed that 10.5% of Latina adolescents aged 10–24 years in the U.S. attempted suicide in 2016, compared to 7.3% of white female, 5.8% of Latino and 4.6% white male teens.

In response to this crisis, we formed the Latina Girls Project, an innovative program that employs individual, group and family therapy, along with monthly outings and other activities, all designed to tackle issues such as depression, low self-esteem, social anxiety, school refusal, self-harming behaviors or suicidal ideation.

Some of our clients who were born outside the U.S. have witnessed violence in their homelands, and many have experienced complex trauma since a young age. Those who were born in the U.S. are impacted by the generational trauma experienced by their parents and limitations around communicating with their parents.

Regardless of where they were born, a big part of the reason these girls are struggling is because they are pulled in conflicting directions, with their parents wanting them to adhere to the traditional values of their homeland, while the girls seek to integrate into American culture and find acceptance among their peers.

The result: Parents are often extremely overprotective; they won’t allow their daughters to venture out and participate in activities such as sleepovers, dating or trips to the mall. Even if the teens are allowed to go out with their friends, they are required to have a chaperone, such as a parent or brother. In addition, they are often relegated to gender-biased roles, required to cook, clean and take care of their siblings while their brothers are treated, as one girl said, “like princes.”

During bilingual individual, family and group therapy sessions, the girls realize that they can trust their therapists, many of whom also grew up as first-generation Latinas. The therapists teach the girls healthy strategies to deal with stress and depression and effective ways to communicate with their parents.

For their part, the parents become more compassionate about their daughters’ desire to fit in, and they also understand the need to let their teens separate in age-appropriate ways. One of our Latina clients put it this way: “My parents learned that I just wanted them to be there for me and listen. They learned that it doesn’t help to question why I feel the way I do but to accept it and support me.”

In addition to therapy, the program incorporates monthly supervised outings to places such as theaters, museums and other cultural and educational sites. These trips, made possible by the generosity of John and Janet Kornreich, expose the girls to the world in a way that would never have happened if not for this Guidance Center program. The trips serve to boost the teens’ confidence and sense of independence, and the girls also discover that there’s a great big world of opportunity out there for them, which allows them to feel hopeful about their futures. The trips also offer respite to the parents who are relieved to know that their daughters are in safe hands.

As one girl put it, “The Latina Girls Project helped my mother and I communicate and become very close, and the monthly outings showed me a world I never would have seen. I felt that I wanted to be a part of the larger world. The trips gave me the feeling that I could be truly happy in my life.”

Bio: Erika Perez-Tobon, LCSW, who is originally from Venezuela, is the bilingual Clinical Supervisor of North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center’s Latina Girls Project, which is located at the agency’s Westbury location.

Guidance Center Names New Board Member, July 6, 2022, Blank Slate Media

Guidance Center Names New Board Member, July 6, 2022, Blank Slate Media

 

North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, the preeminent not-for-profit children’s mental health agency on Long Island, is pleased to announce that Michael Schnepper has joined its board of directors.

Schnepper, a Partner in Rivkin Radler’s Commercial Litigation, Insurance Coverage and Insurance Fraud Practice Groups, is a longtime supporter of the Guidance Center’s mission to bring hope and healing to children and families facing mental health challenges.

For nearly a decade, Schnepper has served as co-chair of one of the most important of the Guidance Center’s annual fundraising events, the Jonathan Krevat Memorial Golf & Tennis Classic.

“We feel extremely fortunate to have Michael joining us,” said Paul Vitale, president of the Guidance Center’s Board of Directors. “He has been a vital force in making the Krevat Cup a huge success year after year, and he approaches the role with enthusiasm, creativity and a wonderful sense of humor. We have no doubts that he will bring that spirit to his work on our Board.”

“It’s a real privilege to become part of the dynamic team at the Guidance Center,” said Schnepper. “The past few years have been an enormous challenge for the kids and families of Long Island, making the need for compassionate, expert mental health services more important than ever before. I look forward to working with the dedicated board members who give so much of their time and devotion to this amazing organization.”

To learn more about how to support the Guidance Center’s work, contact Lauren McGowan at 516-626-1971, ext. 320.

Nassau Nonprofit to Use $3.9 million grant to Target Maternal Mortality, mentions Birth Justice Warriors, our collaboration with Hofstra, June 30. 2022

Nassau Nonprofit to Use $3.9 million grant to Target Maternal Mortality, mentions Birth Justice Warriors, our collaboration with Hofstra, June 30. 2022

 

A Nassau County nonprofit has received a $3.9 million state grant to help underserved women at high risk of maternal mortality in eight Nassau County communities, officials said Thursday.

The five-year grant awarded to the Long Island Federally Qualified Health Center will fund programming for women in Elmont, Freeport, Glen Cove, Hempstead, Long Beach, Roosevelt, Uniondale and Westbury — areas with significant populations of at-risk women.

Statistics show African-American women are five times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, said David Nemiroff, president of Long Island FQHC, one of 26 organizations across the state to receive the Perinatal and Infant Community Health Collaborative grant from the state Health Department.

Nemiroff said Long Island FQHC, which has 10 facilities to help low-income, underinsured and uninsured residents, will partner with community groups such as the Women’s Diversity Network and other health care providers in an effort to reach women, educate them about healthy lifestyles and provide better access to health care.

The assistance will continue for at least two years after the woman has given birth.

“We’re excited to finally be able to focus and make a dent in these health care disparities,” Nemiroff said at a news conference with community leaders outside the LI FQHC facility in Roosevelt.

Dr. Tarika James, chief medical officer at Long Island FQHC, said many of the conditions women deal with are treatable and preventable if detected early, such as hemorrhaging in the days after delivery.

“We have to educate providers and clinicians to look for those signs more early in the pregnancy and we have to educate patients about what to look for and what to observe about themselves in order to get the help they need in a more timely way,” James said.

In 2018, 51.2% of women who died of pregnancy-related causes in New York were Black, non-Hispanic, even though only 14.3% of births statewide were to Black women, according to state Health Department data.

Experts have said some of the reasons for this disparity include discrimination, health care providers not paying attention to the concerns of their patients, lack of follow-up care and inadequate patient education about potential complications.

As part of the new program in Nassau County, community health workers will be hired and conduct outreach to find women and assist them with a variety of services, such as access to healthy foods, educating them about the importance of avoiding tobacco, alcohol and drugs, and following up on medical appointments.

James said women also will learn how to advocate for themselves and speak up to doctors if they feel something is wrong.

Martine Hackett, director of public health programs at Hofstra University and co-founder of Birth Justice Warriors, which works to reduce maternal and infant mortality numbers, said some people are surprised to learn Nassau County, viewed as a wealthy suburb, has a serious problem with maternal and infant mortality.

But she pointed out the county is separated and segregated into areas with a lot of resources and residents in good health and others with few resources and residents in poor health.

“Where we live has a strong influence on our health,” Hackett said. “And this is especially true for the most vulnerable in any society — pregnant women and infants.”

The Suffolk County Health Department also received a Perinatal and Infant Community Health Collaboratives grant, to continue services in Babylon and Islip townships and expand into Brookhaven and Riverhead townships this summer.

Photo: David Nemiroff, president of Long Island FQHC, is joined by area health care leaders in Roosevelt on Thursday. Nemiroff said the nonprofit will partner with community groups and other health care providers in an effort to reach women, educate them about healthy lifestyles and provide better access to health care. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Guidance Center Hosts 25th Annual Krevat Cup, June 9, 2022, Blank Slate Media

Guidance Center Hosts 25th Annual Krevat Cup, June 9, 2022, Blank Slate Media

 

North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, the preeminent not-for-profit children’s mental health agency on Long Island, celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Jonathan Krevat Memorial Golf & Tennis Classic on June 6, at one of Nassau County’s finest courses at the elegant Engineers Country Club in Roslyn Heights.

The event raised $150,000 to support the Guidance Center’s work to bring hope and healing to children and families dealing with mental health or substance use challenges. More than $25,000 in additional funds were raised for the Guidance Center’s Douglas S. Feldman Suicide Prevention Project, another life-saving initiative that launched in September 2020.

This year, the event honored Jeff Krevat, a longtime supporter of the Guidance Center and founder of the Krevat Cup, which is named in honor of his brother.

“The mission of the Guidance Center is more important than ever before, with children and teens suffering from serious mental health challenges,” said Krevat, a former board member. “I am grateful to my friends and family for coming out to honor my brother’s legacy and support an organization that makes a real difference for the kids in our community.”

This year’s guest speaker was Rachel Priest, a mental health professional who was a Guidance Center client in her teen years. She told the audience, “The life-affirming care I received from the Guidance Center saved my life. I was able to accomplish wonderful things over the years both socially and academically” because of the dedication, skills and compassion of her Guidance Center therapists. “Knowing that the care I received over 20 years ago is still available and expanding lets me know that the Guidance Center is still changing lives every day.”

Once again, the co-chairs for this year’s Krevat Cup were Board Members Michael Mondiello, Dan Oliver, Michael Schnepper and Troy Slade. In addition, Dan Donnelly served as the event’s emcee and auctioneer extraordinaire.

“It’s all about the kids,” said Donnelly, a longtime supporter of the Guidance Center, as well as a previous Krevat Cup honoree and a close friend of Jeff Krevat’s. “I consider it a privilege to be here today to help raise money to support the incredible work that truly makes a difference in the lives of children and their families.”

The Guidance Center is grateful to the Krevat Cup’s sponsors: Susan and Jeff Krevat, Americana Manhasset, Aon Reinsurance Solutions, Dan Donnelly, PSEG Long Island, Bahnik Foundation, Susan and Peter Braverman, Klipper Family Foundation, City National Rochdale, The Levine Group Inc., Newmark and Rivkin Radler LLP.

Guidance Center Names New Associate Director, June 13, 2022, Blank Slate Media

Guidance Center Names New Associate Director, June 13, 2022, Blank Slate Media

 

North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center has announced that Jennifer Rush has joined the organization as associate executive director.

Rush will be reporting to Executive Director/CEO Kathy Rivera.

Rush began her career at the Foundation for Childhood Development in New York as a research assistant, where she explored case studies of how systems support children to reach their full potential.

She has a diverse operations background in medical, educational and community-based services, including hospital and substance abuse settings at Northern Berkshire Healthcare and the Brattleboro Retreat.

Most recently, Rush was the Vice President of Residential and Clinical Services at Berkshire County Arc in Pittsfield, Mass., where she oversaw all residential services, including the autism outreach services program and the brain injury services program.

“With more than 28 years of leadership experience in nonprofit, residential and health care settings, Jennifer has extensive experience working with adults, children and families in mental health and substance use,” said Kathy Rivera. “Her impressive level of knowledge, skill and expertise sets the stage for continued growth and expansion of the Guidance Center and will help strengthen our services across the agency.”

“I am excited to have returned to New York to work at the Guidance Center and find ways to further support the agency’s goal of bringing hope and healing to children and families,” said Rush. “I am also eager to support the Guidance Center’s incredibly dedicated employees who provide their clients with compassionate, high-quality services that truly save lives.”

Rush, who holds a B.A. from Barnard College and a Master of Health Care Administration from Seton Hall University, moved from the Berkshires region of Massachusetts to Long Island’s North Shore in May 2022.

“My two college-age children and our golden retriever are all making the transition,” she said, “and in a very short time, we are all already feeling at home.”

To contact Jennifer Rush, email jrush@northshorechildguidance.org or call 516-626-1971, ext. 333.

Guidance Center Reopens Children’s Center at Family Court

Guidance Center Reopens Children’s Center at Family Court

North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center (the Guidance Center) is pleased to announce the reopening of the Children’s Center at Nassau County Family Court, which provides care and early learning to children while their parents or guardians are conducting court business such as divorce and custody cases.

The Children’s Center had closed during the pandemic, when all Family Court activities were moved to a virtual platform.

“The Children’s Center is a safe haven that allows children the opportunity to develop early learning skills through age-appropriate play and activities that are fun and exciting for toddlers and children up to age 12,” said Dr. Nellie Taylor-Walthrust, director of the Guidance Center’s Leeds Place, under which the Children’s Center operates. “Now that the court is on a hybrid schedule with families coming back in, it’s essential that children can return to the Children’s Center so they don’t have to witness potentially contentious interactions among their family members.”

“A lot of important things happen in this building, and at the Children’s Center, children will be well cared for,” said Ellen Greenberg, supervising hudge at Nassau County Family Court.

While participating in the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Greenberg told those gathered, “Don’t ever let anyone tell you this is just babysitting; it’s a true learning center, and families know they can leave their children here safely while they work on court matters.”

“The reopening is great news for the kids who come to Family Court with their parents or guardians,” said family law attorney John M. Zenir, one of the Children’s Center’s most dedicated supporters. “It means they can be safe, away from the stress and strain that’s going on between their parents. They can have a snack, read a book or play a game. In other words, just be a kid—what could be better!”

For Laurie Joseph-Yehuda, the Children’s Center is especially close to her heart, since it was founded by her father, the late Honorable Burton Joseph.

Joseph-Yehuda is a member of the Children’s Center advisory council, and her mother Rene painted the beautiful murals on the walls of the Children’s Center many years ago.

“The reopening of the Children’s Center is so important because it gives children a place to come to be enriched, to learn and to be cared for,” said Joseph-Yehuda.

Another advisory council member, Katherine Cho, a professor in the Criminal Justice department at Nassau Community College, brings her students to the Children’s Center.

“They love to get involved with the Center,” said Cho. “It’s a great way for them to learn about the workings of the Family Court.”

“It’s a privilege to be able to serve children and families to reduce caregiver stress and have opportunities to connect them with resources they may need outside of Family Court,” said Kathy Rivera, Guidance Center executive director/CEO. “We are committed to bringing our families comfort and guidance wherever needed.”

Photo: (Left to right): Dr. Nellie Taylor-Walthrust, John Aiken, Kathy Rivera, Ellen Greenberg and Rosemarie Klipper. Credit: Jenna Kern-Rugile

Guidance Center Reopens Children’s Center at Family Court

Guidance Center Reopens Children’s Center at Family Court, June 23, 2022

 

North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center (the Guidance Center) is pleased to announce the reopening of the Children’s Center at Nassau County Family Court, which provides care and early learning to children while their parents or guardians are conducting court business such as divorce and custody cases. The Children’s Center had closed during the pandemic, when all Family Court activities were moved to a virtual platform.

“The Children’s Center is safe haven that allows children the opportunity to develop early learning skills through age-appropriate play and activities that are fun and exciting for toddlers and children up to age 12,” said Dr. Nellie Taylor-Walthrust, Director of the Guidance Center’s Leeds Place, under which the Children’s Center operates. “Now that the court is on a hybrid schedule with families coming back in, it’s essential that children can return to the Children’s Center so they don’t have to witness potentially contentious interactions among their family members.”

The Honorable Ellen Greenberg, Supervising Judge at Nassau County Family Court, said, “A lot of important things happen in this building, and at the Children’s Center, children will be well cared for.” While participating in the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Judge Greenberg told those gathered, “Don’t ever let anyone tell you this is just babysitting; it’s a true learning center, and families know they can leave their children here safely while they work on court matters.”

Family law attorney John M. Zenir, one of the Children’s Center’s biggest supporters, said, “The reopening is great news for the kids who come to Family Court with their parents or guardians,” said Zenir. “It means they can be safe, away from the stress and strain that’s going on between their parents. They can have a snack, read a book or play a game. In other words, just be a kid—what could be better!”

For Laurie Joseph-Yehuda, the Children’s Center is especially close to her heart, since it was founded by her father, the late Honorable Burton S. Joseph Burton. Joseph-Yehuda is a member of the Children’s Center Advisory Council, and her mother Rene painted the beautiful murals on the walls of the Children’s Center many years ago.

“The reopening of the Children’s Center is so important, because it gives children a place to come to be enriched, to learn and to be cared for,” said Joseph-Yehuda.

Another Advisory Council Member, Katherine Cho, a professor in the Criminal Justice department at Nassau Community College, brings her students to the Children’s Center. “They love to get involved with the Center,” she said. “It’s a great way for them to learn about the workings of the Family Court.”

To learn more about the Guidance Center’s Children’s Center, contact Dr. Taylor-Walthrust at 516-997-4721.

Photo: (Left to right): Dr. Nellie Taylor-Walthrust, John Aiken, Kathy Rivera, Ellen Greenberg and Rosemarie Klipper. Credit: Jenna Kern-Rugile

Guidance Center Names New Associate Director, June 13, 2022, Blank Slate Media

Guidance Center Names New Associate Executive Director

Jennifer Rush takes on critical role at Long Island’s leading children’s mental health organization.

Roslyn Heights, NY, June 10, 2022 North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center (the Guidance Center) is pleased to announce that Jennifer Rush has joined the organization as Associate Executive Director. Ms. Rush will be reporting to Executive Director/CEO Kathy Rivera.

Ms. Rush began her career at the Foundation for Childhood Development in New York as a research assistant, where she explored case studies of how systems support children to reach their full potential. She has a diverse operations background in medical, educational and community-based services, including hospital and substance abuse settings at Northern Berkshire Healthcare and the Brattleboro Retreat.

Most recently, Ms. Rush was the Vice President of Residential and Clinical Services at Berkshire County Arc in Pittsfield, Mass., where she oversaw all residential services, including the autism outreach services program and the brain injury services program.

“With more than 28 years of leadership experience in nonprofit, residential and health care settings, Jennifer has extensive experience working with adults, children and families in mental health and substance use,” said Kathy Rivera, Executive Director/CEO of the Guidance Center. “Her impressive level of knowledge, skill and expertise sets the stage for continued growth and expansion of the Guidance Center and will help strengthen our services across the agency.”

“I am excited to have returned to New York to work at the Guidance Center and find ways to further support the agency’s goal of bringing hope and healing to children and families,” said Ms. Rush. “I am also eager to support the Guidance Center’s incredibly dedicated employees who provide their clients with compassionate, high-quality services that truly save lives.”

Ms. Rush, who holds a B.A. from Barnard College and a Master of Health Care Administration from Seton Hall University, moved from the Berkshires region of Massachusetts to Long Island’s North Shore in May 2022. “My two college-age children and our golden retriever are all making the transition,” she said, “and in a very short time, we are all already feeling at home.”

To contact Jennifer Rush, email jrush@northshorechildguidance.org or call 516-626-1971, ext. 333.

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.

Guidance Center Hosts 25th Annual Krevat Cup, June 9, 2022, Blank Slate Media

Guidance Center Hosts 25th Annual Krevat Cup, June 9, 2022

 

Guidance Center Hosts 25th Annual Krevat Cup

Event honoring founder Jeff Krevat raises $150,000 to support children’s mental health

Roslyn Heights, NY, June 9, 2022 —North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, the preeminent not-for-profit children’s mental health agency on Long Island, celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Jonathan Krevat Memorial Golf & Tennis Classic on June 6, 2022, at one of Nassau County’s finest courses at the elegant Engineers Country Club in Roslyn Heights.

The event raised $150,000 to support the Guidance Center’s work to bring hope and healing to children and families dealing with mental health or substance use challenges. More than $25,000 in additional funds were raised for the Guidance Center’s Douglas S. Feldman Suicide Prevention Project, another life-saving initiative that launched in September 2020.

This year, the event honored Jeff Krevat, a longtime supporter of the Guidance Center and founder of the Krevat Cup, which is named in honor of his brother. “The mission of the Guidance Center is more important than ever before, with children and teens suffering from serious mental health challenges,” said Krevat, a former Board Member. “I am grateful to my friends and family for coming out to honor my brother’s legacy and support an organization that makes a real difference for the kids in our community.”

This year’s guest speaker was Rachel Priest, a mental health professional who was a Guidance Center client in her teen years. She told the audience, “The life-affirming care I received from the Guidance Center saved my life. I was able to accomplish wonderful things over the years both socially and academically” because of the dedication, skills and compassion of her Guidance Center therapists. “Knowing that the care I received over 20 years ago is still available and expanding lets me know that the Guidance Center is still changing lives every day.”

Once again, the co-chairs for this year’s Krevat Cup were Board Members Michael Mondiello, Dan Oliver, Michael Schnepper and Troy Slade. In addition, Dan Donnelly served as the event’s emcee and auctioneer extraordinaire.

“It’s all about the kids,” said Donnelly, a longtime supporter of the Guidance Center, as well as a previous Krevat Cup honoree and a close friend of Jeff Krevat’s. “I consider it a privilege to be here today to help raise money to support the incredible work that truly makes a difference in the lives of children and their families.”

The Guidance Center is grateful to the Krevat Cup’s sponsors: Susan and Jeff Krevat, Americana Manhasset, Aon Reinsurance Solutions, Dan Donnelly, PSEG Long Island, Bahnik Foundation, Susan and Peter Braverman, Klipper Family Foundation, City National Rochdale, The Levine Group Inc., Newmark and Rivkin Radler LLP.

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; trauma; and family crises stemming from illness, death 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.

Photo: (Left to right): Krevat Cup co-chairs Troy Slade, Dan Oliver, Michael Schnepper and Mike Mondiello, with emcee Dan Donnelly, honoree Jeff Krevat and Guidance Center Executive Director/CEO Kathy Rivera.

Guidance Center Hosts 25th Annual Krevat Cup, June 9, 2022, Blank Slate Media

Guidance Center Golf and Tennis Outing Raises $150K,” Long Island Business News, June 9, 2022

North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center raised $150,000 at a recent golf outing to support children’s mental health.

This year marked the 25th anniversary for the event, the Jonathan Krevat Memorial Golf & Tennis Classic, which was held at the Engineers Country Club in Roslyn Heights.

The funds raised supports the centers work in bringing “hope and healing to children and families dealing with mental health or substance use challenges,” according to the organization.

And more than $25,000 in additional funds were raised for the Guidance Center’s Douglas S. Feldman Suicide Prevention Project, which was launched in September 2020.

This year’s honoree was Jeff Krevat, a longtime supporter of the Guidance Center and founder of the Krevat Cup, which is named in honor of his brother.

“The mission of the Guidance Center is more important than ever before, with children and teens suffering from serious mental health challenges,” Krevat, a former board member, said in a statement. “I am grateful to my friends and family for coming out to honor my brother’s legacy and support an organization that makes a real difference for the kids in our community.”

Rachel Priest, a mental health professional who was a Guidance Center client as a teen, was this year’s speaker.

“The life-affirming care I received from the Guidance Center saved my life,” she told the audience.

“I was able to accomplish wonderful things over the years both socially and academically” because of the dedication, skills and compassion of her Guidance Center therapists,” she added. “Knowing that the care I received over 20 years ago is still available and expanding lets me know that the Guidance Center is still changing lives every day.”

Michael Mondiello, Dan Oliver, Michael Schnepper and Troy Slade co-chaired the event. Dan Donnelly served as the event’s emcee and auctioneer.

“I consider it a privilege to be here today to help raise money to support the incredible work that truly makes a difference in the lives of children and their families,” he said.

The Guidance Center’s Work “Beyond Our Walls”

The Guidance Center’s Work “Beyond Our Walls”

By Kathy Rivera, published in Anton Media, May 27, 2022

North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center is known throughout Long Island as the preeminent mental health organization for youth and families, providing individualized, culturally sensitive therapeutic services that serve to bring hope and healing to those experiencing mental health challenges. For nearly 70 years, the Guidance Center has been listening to your needs and concerns, and responding swiftly and compassionately. Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, we wanted to share with you some important information on our offerings. 

As we told you in our April Anton column, we shifted to a hybrid model of service within days of the pandemic’s beginning, seeing clients both in person and via a secure telehealth platform. 

But if you picture the work of the Guidance Center as taking place only inside our three buildings or via a virtual platform, with a counselor and client sitting in an office or communicating via a smartphone or computer, think again. Many of our innovative programs happen beyond our walls, in places that range from state parks to schools to homes. 

The Guidance Center’s Wilderness Respite Program, now in its 23rd year, provides a unique opportunity for at-risk adolescents to put down their tech devices and participate in hikes and other nature activities that help them gain confidence and make lasting friendships. 

Nature takes a leading role in our two Organic Gardens, located at our main headquarters in Roslyn Heights and our Marks Family Right from the Start 0-3+ Center in Manhasset. By weeding, seeding and tending to the crops, kids blossom as they learn important skills such as self-confidence, cooperation and responsibility.

The Guidance Center also has a Nature Nursery, where our youngest clients use all their senses as they touch pinecones or paint on an outdoor “canvas.”  The textures, sounds and sights help children explore their creative sides and learn skills to help cope with difficult feelings.

In addition to therapy, our Latina Girls Project incorporates monthly outings to places such as theaters, museums and more. These trips boost the teens’ confidence and sense of independence and help them discover the larger world. In 2019, the trips expanded to include outings for boys that also have been a huge success.

Students from 5-21 who’ve had a hard time succeeding in school have a great alternative with our Intensive Support Program (ISP), held at three Nassau County B.O.C.E.S schools. There, they receive academic help and counseling, with therapists on site to help them flourish emotionally and academically.

We also work in Westbury high school and middle school with our Teen Intervene and Too Good for Drugs programs, designed to prevent substance and alcohol use. 

For children and teens who need our help but can’t come to our offices, the Guidance Center provides intensive in-home therapy with our Clinical Care Coordination Team (CCCT). CCCT aims to lessen acute symptoms, restore clients to prior levels of functioning, and build and strengthen natural supports. Through CCCT, our goal is to reduce unnecessary emergency room visits, hospitalizations and residential placements.

Our Coordinated Children’s Services Initiative (CCSI) supports families with the coordination of services in their homes and communities, identifying and accessing resources, providing advocacy and helping children and families gain the skills and tools needed to be self-sufficient.

Through our Family Advocate Program, parents who have been through mental health crises with their own children are trained to offer peer support for families by joining them at special education meetings, offering support groups and providing many other resources. 

In addition, we have enhanced services to the clients in our Diane Goldberg Maternal Depression Program by adding yoga classes and self-care outings.

As you can see, the Guidance Center is always thinking “outside the box,” creating innovative programs that meet the needs of the community and enhance the therapeutic value of all our services. We are here for you!

Bio: Kathy Rivera, LCSW, is 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.

How to talk to kids about the Texas school shooting

How to talk to kids about the Texas school shooting

Newsday, By Beth Whitehouse, May 26, 2022, featuring Kathy Rivera, Executive Director/CEO, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center

Click here to watch a powerful video posted with this article.

“Am I safe?” 

That may be the first reaction of school-aged children when they hear about Tuesday’s mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Texas that left 21 people dead. “Most children want to know, ‘Am I going to be OK? Are you going to be OK? Is this going to happen to me?’,” said Mary Pulido, executive director of the Manhattan-based New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. 

Long Island social workers and psychologists offered advice for parents: 

See what your child knows. Ask if they’ve heard any news that they want to talk about, and if so, what they heard, advised Kathleen Rivera, executive director and CEO of North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center, with offices in Roslyn, Manhasset and Westbury. “Let the child use their own words to tell their own story. Sometimes you need to know what you’re working with before you can take proper action,” she said. Correct misinformation and talk to them in ways appropriate for their age. 

If you think they haven’t heard about the shooting, you may wonder whether you should bring it up. While you know your child better than anyone, experts generally suggest introducing the topic. With cellphones and TV ubiquitous, chances  are if they don’t hear about it from you, they will hear about it from someone else when you aren’t there to help them manage their reaction, Rivera said. You don’t need to be detailed, experts said. Kids understand the concept of good and evil.

Emphasize that many people work every day to keep them safe. Tell them, “Days, months, and years have gone by when you are OK and adults have protected you,” said Don Sinkfield, vice president of The New Hope Mental Health Counseling Services in Valley Stream. Outline in concrete terms that it’s your job to protect them, and that many people — from the President of the United States to their local police department to their individual teachers — are protecting them as well, experts said. “You can’t promise them something that is false — ‘it will never happen again,’” Rivera said. But remind them that their school has plans for how to keep them safe; you could review those plans, but don’t contradict the school’s protocol, experts said. 

Don’t have the conversation at night. A lot of parents connect with their children at bedtime. That may not the best time to broach the topic, said Laurie Zelinger, a child psychologist in private practice in Cedarhurst who spent 19 years as an elementary school psychologist in the Oceanside School District. “If you have a child who is particularly anxious or sensitive, have the conversation early in the day,” she advised. Give them a chance to absorb the information and ask questions. 

Keep children away from constant news. “Please turn off the TV, stop the social media apps,” Rivera said. “Stay present with your child.” 

Be conscious of your own reaction and how you are expressing it. “It can have a trickle-down effect,” Rivera said. This shooting happened on the heels of the mass shooting in a supermarket in Buffalo, so adults are feeling vulnerable as well. “We didn’t have a chance to recalibrate,” she said. 

If your child is afraid to go to school and really needs a day to stay home for a day, that may be OK. “Right after a tragic event, kids can have acute stress. You want to be able to help kids resurrect a feeling of safety, and they will feel safer at home,” said Zelinger, who is also the author of the children’s book, “Please Explain Anxiety to Me” (Loving Healing Press, 2014). 

This is not a “one and done” conversation. “As a parent, you have to do a temperature check on your child,” Rivera said. They might be OK today, but not tomorrow. Parents should look to community resources, she said. “We are a phone call away.”

Responding to the Crisis in Children’s Mental Health

Responding to the Crisis in Children’s Mental Health

By Kathy Rivera, published in Anton Media, April 27, 2022

As of this writing, while COVID-19 cases have been inching up, most experts say that we have moved into a new phase of the pandemic, where the disease, while still dangerous, is less deadly than previous strains. In addition, preventative measures and treatments have advanced far beyond the early days of the crisis, when so little was known.

Certainly, that is news we’ve all been hoping to hear for more than two years, but there is another crisis that shows no signs of abating: the epidemic of mental health issues spurred by long-term social isolation, anxiety, illness, financial insecurity and other challenges. 

While all of us have been impacted, the reality is that children, teens and young adults have experienced the losses surrounding COVID-19 in deep and potentially long-lasting ways. Numerous studies have reported sharp increases in rates of depression, anxiety, loneliness and suicide attempts. In addition, the number of U.S. children who have a lost a parent or other caregiver to COVID-19 is estimated to exceed 200,000.

In a first-of-its-kind study of youth mental health during the pandemic period, released on March 31, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a dramatic increase in emotional and psychological trauma in kids and teens. More than a third of high school students said they experienced poor mental health during the pandemic, with 44% reporting they felt “persistently sad or hopeless.” One in five considered suicide, and nearly 10% made a suicide attempt. 

The CDC also reported that, during the first seven months of lockdown, hospitals experienced a 24% rise in mental-health-related emergency visits for children aged 5 to 11, and a 31% increase for those aged 12 to 17.

Sadly, these statistics came as no surprise to the team of clinicians at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center (the Guidance Center).

From the early days of the pandemic, we have been flooded with calls from hospitals, emergency rooms, urgent care centers, parents, schools and others desperate for help as they saw those statistics come to life.

At the Guidance Center, we’ve provided therapy to children—some as young as three years old—who are experiencing deep grief from the loss of a parent or other loved one. Many are grieving a loss of hope and confidence about their futures. Others are in dire financial situations born of pandemic job loss. All lost fundamental things that we used to take for granted: the ability to be with friends, go to school, celebrate joyous occasions, participate in extracurricular activities and have confidence that we were safe in the world. 

Even if the pandemic disappeared tomorrow, the mental health effects would not disappear with it. Unfortunately, we cannot expect our children to simply get over what has been such a profoundly difficult, scary and uncertain time.

Despite these gloomy predictions, parents need not succumb to hopelessness. You have a vital role to play, and it’s one that can make all the difference in helping your children survive and even thrive despite the challenges of the past two years.

First, be on the lookout for signs of emotional distress. Is your child or teen isolating themselves, even though they are allowed to be with others? Have their sleeping or eating patterns changed? Have their grades dropped dramatically? Have they lost interest in the things that used to make them happy? Are they more irritable than usual? Have they turned to substances to improve or numb their moods?

Don’t assume that they will tell you they’re struggling. Ask them how they are feeling. Assure them that it’s normal to be feeling sad, scared and even angry in the face of all they’ve experienced. And tell them there is absolutely no shame in asking for professional help. Tell them, it’s OK not to be OK.

The Guidance Center has been serving the community for nearly 70 years, and we are here during this time. We never turn anyone away for inability to pay, and we promise to see urgent cases within 24 to 48 hours through our Douglas S. Feldman Suicide Prevention Project and our Fay J. Lindner Foundation Triage and Emergency Services. We offer individualized, culturally sensitive treatment via telehealth, in person or a combination of both, depending on the needs of the family.

Children are not little adults. They have specific needs that are best addressed by mental health professionals who are specially trained to help young people. They are also resilient, and with the proper support, they will overcome the challenges brought on by the pandemic. We all will.

Bio: Kathy Rivera, LCSW, is 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 life-saving work, call (516) 626-1971 or visit www.northshorechildguidance.org.

Guidance Center In-Person Lunch Set for April 28

Guidance Center In-Person Lunch Set for April 28

Published in Long Island Business News, April 18, 2022

North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center will host its annual spring luncheon – this year in-person – on April 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Glen Head Country Club.

After a  cancelled 2020 event and a virtual 2021 luncheon amid COVID, this year’s event continues to raise funds to support the organization at a time of “heightened anxiety and depression among children and teens,” according to the organization.

The day includes mahjong, canasta and bridge, as well as boutique shopping for jewelry, clothing, accessories and housewares.

Keynote speaker is Leg. Josh Lafazan who has passed bills that address the opioid epidemic, caring for veterans and advocacy for those with disabilities.

This year’s spring luncheon co-chairs are Jan Ashley, Amy Cantor and Alexis Siegel.

Photo: This year’s spring luncheon co-chairs are Jan Ashley, Amy Cantor and Alexis Siegel.

Ask the Guidance Center Experts

Ask the Guidance Center Experts

This story will be published in Blank Slate Media newspapers in April 2022

Helping Your Child Through Divorce

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: After much discussion, including couples therapy, my husband and I have decided to divorce. We both know it’s the right thing to do, but we’re very worried about how our kids (we have two girls and a boy, 5, 8 and 10) are going to handle it. Can you offer some advice on how we can best support them during this difficult time? 

— Splitting Up

Dear Splitting Up: 

The rise in divorce rates in the pandemic period show that you and your husband are far from alone: In 2021, the COVID-19 crisis triggered a nearly 21% increase in divorce filings compared with the previous year.

Whenever there is a separation or divorce, there is no way around the fact that your children will be impacted in profound ways.

And, while divorce doesn’t have the same stigma it did years ago, it still is a difficult event in a young person’s life.

The dissolution of their parents’ marriage can create enormous stress for youngsters. Divorce can be devastating to the children’s feelings of safety, causing fear of abandonment and fear of losing a parent’s love. The result: Anxiety, depression and low self-esteem are common.

Guilt is often another problem, as many children blame themselves for the divorce, believing that it is somehow their fault and that if they had just been “good,” the separation never would have happened. 

In addition, many parents make the mistake of talking negatively about their ex-spouse in front of their children. This upsets them because they see their parents as their caretakers, and they need to feel safe and supported by both of them. 

When parents put their kids in the middle of their battles, the children struggle with issues of loyalty. Even if they are very caring parents, they may do things inadvertently that cause distress to their child, such as asking the child to talk with the ex-spouse about a change in weekend plans instead of dealing with the adult directly.

Here are some tips on how to help your children deal with divorce:

  • Be supportive, reassuring your kids that both of you will always love them and be there for them. 
  • Encourage them to speak to you openly about all their feelings, and validate that those feelings are normal and completely acceptable.
  • Learn how to co-parent the children so there is no confusion on discipline. Rules about bedtime, homework and the like should remain consistent.
  • Never talk negatively about the other parent in front of the children.
  • If possible, show a united front by attending events like back-to-school nights, games and other activities together.
  • Let their teachers know about your separation so they are on the lookout for any troubling behaviors from your children.
  • Foster the relationships your children have with your ex’s family so they don’t feel the loss of those attachments.
  • Consider placing your child in a therapeutic group so they don’t feel like they are alone in their experience. Many schools have programs like “Banana Splits” offered by school-based social workers.
  • Be sure to get support for yourself through this process through friends, family members and professional therapy, if needed.

Remember, the post-divorce relationship with your ex-spouse is perhaps the most important factor in how well your children handle the matter, so do your best to get along for their sake. Knowing that they are loved no matter what by both of you is the most important message. During the pandemic, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center is seeing clients both in person and remotely via a telehealth platform. To make an appointment, call (516) 626-1971 or email intake@northshorechildguidance.org