Resource Corner

January/February 2022

Diving into the New Year! Click the arrows for insights and resources from our School Counseling Team!  

“Happy New Year” from the school counseling team!  We know that the launch back into the school year has come with the continual need to be flexible and diligent on many levels.  We want to thank you for your continued partnership, as caregivers, to support your children in all areas of wellness.  We hope some of the ideas we are sharing with you for January and February are helpful to you and allow for you to have some intention goals related to your own mental wellness.  The New Year often comes with resolutions, but they are not always as helpful to us as we intend them to be.  Often we set expectations that are not realistic or we “throw the towel in” at our first hiccup with our resolution.  Many studies show that resolutions set in this way do not lead to success.  Often we work with students and teams about sticking with a goal, even if we aren’t successful every day in reaching that goal.  Each day, or really each moment, allows for the opportunity to reset and keep trying.  We recognize that in this moment goal setting might not be realistic for many.  Surviving the day might be more of your current reality.  One idea we wanted to present is the idea of the “One Word Challenge”.  We have included a few resources.  Some for adults and a book for kiddos.  The idea is to reflect on a word that might be your focus for this year.  We encourage you to spend some time reflecting on a word that has meaning and will lead to some personal growth for you.  The book “One Word for Kids” challenges us to look within us, look above and look around us to determine the one word that will make most sense for us. There are a lot of word ideas listed in the resources below and we encourage you to reflect on one that has meaning to you.  If you have any questions on this idea, please let us know. 

 Michelle’s explanation of how she is using the one word challenge:  “I have decided that my word for the year is “Present”.  Like many, I tend to be a time traveler in my mind and with my thoughts.  I find myself “what-iffing” often when there are so many unknowns.  This cycle can be exhausting.  Being in the present moment is a gift (like a present).  I am using this word as a reminder to be present to myself and those around me.  I bring my mind back to the present often by simply thinking of my one word. My goal is to go from the “what if” to the “what is”. I find that a deep breath saying “I am here, this is now” has been a good way to draw my attention back to the now.”

As we journey ahead into the month of February, our focus with students will be not only on how we show love to those around us, but how we can love oneself.  As caregivers, we model this ability in how we show up for ourselves.  Often self-compassion is an area of growth for many caregivers.  We have listed some resources to keep it simple using “I am” statements.  This is something that many students will be working on this month.  Similar to the one word challenge, we encourage you to think of some “I am” statements that you can take with you, as you journey ahead.  They might come in handy as you navigate the twists and turns that life can bring.  As always, please know you are not alone in this journey.  We are here and happy to help. 

Blessings of wellness and peace to you and your family,

  Michelle, Libby and Carrie            

November/December 2021

Resources and info to help your family thrive through the holiday season. Click the arrows below to learn about each topic. 

The holiday season can be  hectic and overwhelming at times. There are holiday lights, displays, social events, gift purchasing and trinkets for the people we are connected to.

For some, this time of year is a blessing, the flurry of activities is special and meaningful! And for many, this time of year feels hard. Overwhelming, triggering, full of grief, loneliness or stress.  This time of year can be a good time to turn in and explore what helps to nourish you so you can thrive through the holidays.

  1. Slow Down

It feels as if everything happens all at once, holiday parties, cards, shopping, yet everything seems to go slower, like traffic, grocery shopping, long lines everywhere. We cannot control the world around us but we can control the pace at which we move in our actions and thoughts. We think multitasking and rushing will save us time later, but that never quite works.

Instead, take a look at your calendar, can you schedule block time to take care of you?

Can you move slower in the midst of the chaos? Can you practice mindfulness while in the holiday traffic with deep breaths, body scans and peaceful music or a helpful podcast? Can you feel your feet grounded and take belly breaths while standing in long lines? Approach these practices with curiosity and see how they feel.

  1. Self-Care

In our culture, self-care has come to mean vacations and spa days, but true self-care runs deeper. Self-care means really tuning into ourselves and asking what’s needed. Do we need rest? Do we need to say “no” to the too many social events on our calendars and tend ourselves and our families? True self-care means we are in alignment with what we need, not what our thoughts say we “should” do.  Focusing on areas within our control can prioritize our efforts and help with mental wellness.  See control wheel visual to explore further.

  1. Support

Due to the chaotic nature of this season, it’s more important than ever to acknowledge the hard feelings that may arise and give ourselves compassion. It could be as simple as placing a hand on your heart and offering yourself soothing words, as you would to a friend or family member who is having a hard time. “I feel you. This is hard. I’m so sorry you’re suffering, I’m here.”

It may mean reaching out for support from others, intimate loved ones, community, a therapist, coach or counselor. If hard feelings are bubbling up, there’s no reason not to take the opportunity to work skillfully with them! This can be an unexpected gift.  We were never meant to do this all alone.

  1. Remember: Gratitude and Giving

It’s easy to remember everything we don’t appreciate at this time of year, when stress runs high and time runs short. But here again, is where we can exercise choice. Are we focusing on what hurts or what helps?  Looking through the lens of gratitude and appreciation changes everything.  Instead of focusing on the wants, we can look around and see what’s needed. Do the people around us need some extra help or support? Is there a local shelter that needs a meal served or food donated? Do you know a family that’s in need this holiday season? This combo of gratitude and giving ends up being the best gift to ourselves we could ever ask for.

 

Staying calm during this difficult time can help ensure that you have the bandwidth you need to care for those around you.  When you’re running on fumes, caring for others can tax your already depleted self.  When you are able to prioritize your needs, you’re filling your tank, emotionally, spiritually and physically, and that means you’ll be in a position to offer comfort and care to others when they need it the most.  So please gift yourself with focusing on the “me” in Merry and know you are not alone.  However you choose to thrive through the holidays, please know we are here.  We wish you well this holiday season and commend your courage in trying something new to take care of you this season…. you are most certainly worth it! 

The School Counseling Team

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season. Grief is a process and is often heightened during the holidays. 
  2. When stress is at its peak, it’s hard to stop and regroup. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.
  3. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
  4. Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
  5. Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
  6. Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Alternative options include: donate to a charity in someone’s name, give homemade gifts, start a family gift exchange etc.
  7. Make a list and check it twice. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
  8. Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time. Don’t over commit and learn your limits.
  9. Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Some suggestions include: have a healthy snack before a holiday party, get plenty of sleep, and incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
  10. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm. Some options include: take a quiet walk, listen to soothing music, get a massage, read a book, talk to a friend etc.
  11. Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
September/October 2021

Resources and info to help your family navigate the tricky world of technology. Click the arrows below to learn about each topic. 

The school counseling team knows firsthand how challenging it is to navigate the world of technology with our youth.  We know that in order to guide our youth effectively, we must partner with all adults who are monitoring and modeling appropriate technology use.  We often break it down by asking students these three questions:  How is it helpful?  How is it hurtful? How are we going to handle it?  These questions can also be applied to our own self-reflection regarding technology and social media. Are we modeling appropriate limits?  Are we practicing the pause before pressing send or post?  Are we being intentional with connecting to our kiddos and being truly present with them?  Are we getting curious with our kids on what it is like for them to handle this world that we did not have to navigate at their age?  In this ever-changing world of technology we are connected to people, places and things by the click/touch of a few things.  This has led us to be disconnected in so many other ways.  Unfortunately, we see how this plays out in a negative way with the youth and families we serve.  Here are a few resources that you might find helpful, as you continue to educate yourself on how to handle this world of technology.  Please know you are not alone in these efforts.  The school counseling team appreciates an open dialogue with caregivers on how we can partner together.  It is time to get curious on what this means for our youth and how we can help guide them in a healthy manner.  We are in this together and need each other to take on this challenge.  Please connect with the school counselor that supports your school for questions, concerns or ideas.  We appreciate you!  

Get device reviews, app reviews, the latest on parental controls, informative best practices, and family guides to help keep your family on track for success in the digital arena

Digital Training – Wait Until 8th

Get reviews for what your kids are into (before they get into it.) Common Sense Media creates aged-based reviews with families in mind. 

Common Sense Media

 

 

Child. Sex. Trafficking. These three words should never be used in the same sentence, much less be a reality for many of the world’s most vulnerable. This video, and the resources found at love146.org/caregivers will help you understand the realities of human trafficking, spot vulnerabilities, and help support your own child’s safety. This conversation is to helping children feel empowered to protect themselves and open up about their fears, vulnerabilities, and experiences of abuse and exploitation. Our children need to know we’re listening and that we care. As a caregiver, your voice and understanding in this process is irreplaceable. 

Watch “Love Listens- Parents Can Help Prevent Child Trafficking”

JULY/AUGUST 2021

Resources and info to help your kid/s and family adjust to new routines as we head into a new school year! Click the arrows below to learn about each topic. 

Being apart from caregivers can be tough on kids, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it is a bad thing. Check out this infographic from Dr. Deborah McNamara with suggestions to help “hold the distance”.

When Saying Goodbye is Hard – 20 Ways to Bridge the Daytime Separation

“All learning begins with connection! Connections on the outside (with other people) actually create and strengthen neural connections within the brain.” Learn more with this helpful guide from  Conscious Discipline!

Four Elements of Connection

 

It is likely there might be a variety of emotions and levels of excitement about the new school year launching.  Here are some basic tips to make it a little smoother, no matter how “groovy” school is for your child(ren).  If you have any questions or would like further information, please reach out to Michelle Frossard at mfrossard@stecharities.org

A routine lets a child know what to expect.

A routine provides them with a sense that life is predictable.

A routine is calming, providing a child with a sense of security.

 

MAPing Routines – Creating a map for your kids

  • Model
  • Add Visuals
  • PracticePage Content

Every family needs routines. They help to organize life and keep it from becoming too chaotic. Children do best when routines are regular, predictable, and consistent.  One of a family’s greatest challenges is to establish comfortable, effective routines.

While having routines and structure are wonderful, this does not mean that they have to be rigid and inflexible. Routines work best when you have flexibility built in. Life is often unpredictable, sometimes life just gets in the way of life!

The best way however to help children adjust to an occasional bump in the road is to stay relaxed about it yourself. Your children are watching everything you do and say, you are modeling for them (whether you realize it or not) how to handle change and deal with stress. If you are comfortable with the occasional bump in the road, your children will be as well!

So relax and go with the flow!

Change takes time, effort and consistency. Remember to praise effort, not results (as in your child making the effort to get themselves dressed, never mind that the clothing may be on backwards and inside out!).

Keep your focus on what is going well in your routine, not what isn’t. Be sure to bring attention to your children when they make an effort and you will boost their self-esteem and inspire them to try even harder. 

As a parent, review the routines in your household to ensure that they accomplish what you want. Here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). 

Weekday Mornings:

 

To make the household function well in the morning, everyone needs to know what has to be done to get ready for the day. Try the following:

  • Put as many things in order as possible the night before.
  • Keep wake-up routines calm and not emotionally charged. A chaotic start to the day often carries with them into school.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your school counselor if your student(s) may benefit from a check and connect, if the morning has been rough.
  • Be sure your child eats breakfast, even if he or she is not hungry in the morning. See breakfast ideas below.
  • Finally, have a goodbye routine. A simple hug and a wave as he or she heads out the door or slides out of the car are extremely important. They will give your child a positive feeling with which to begin the day’s activities. 

Breakfast-Made-Easier Tips for Parents

 

Whether you opt for a simple breakfast or a more elaborate one, any effort to make it nutritious is better than no breakfast at all.

  • Schedule accordingly.While sitting down and sharing family meals is beneficial, sitting down to a leisurely breakfast with your kids each morning simply isn’t realistic for most of you. What is realistic, however, is making sure you carve out enough time to allow your child to eat without pressure.
  • Fix breakfast before bedtime. In other words, plan ahead. As with just about all other aspects of feeding your child, a little advance planning can go a long way toward having a wider range of healthy foods on hand. Simple examples such as hard-boiling eggs ahead of time or having your child’s favorite cold cereal dished out the night before to pair with some pre-sliced fresh fruit can mean the difference between time for a balanced breakfast and running out the door without it (or, as is often the case, with some commercially packaged and far less nutritious alternative in hand).
  • Grab-and-go breakfasts. If the reality of your schedule is such that you and your kids routinely run out the door with no time to spare in the morning, then try stocking up on a variety of nutritious foods that you can prepare and prepackage for healthier grab-and-go convenience. In addition to hard-boiled eggs, consider other fast favorites like sliced apples, yogurt, homemade muffins, or a bagel with low-fat cream cheese.
  • Make sure sleep is on the menu. Applying the age-old adage, make sure your child is early enough to bed that she rises early enough to allow time for breakfast. No matter what their age, tired kids tend to be cranky, and cranky kids are far less likely to sit down for a well-balanced breakfast. Not only that, but sleep has proven itself to be a crucial ingredient in children’s overall health.
  • Broaden your horizons. You’ll certainly want to keep safety in mind when figuring out what’s age-appropriate to offer your child for breakfast, but don’t let yourself be constrained by artificially imposed labels to determine what is good to serve for a morning meal. Think protein, think fruits and vegetables, and think outside the box when it comes to expanding your breakfast horizons beyond just breakfast cereals and milk. Many breakfast choices contain high sugar, which can add to difficulties with focus and attention. 

Afterschool

  • Consider basic needs when your child gets home. Fuel for the body, possibly some movement opportunties and a moment of connection are important. 
  • Reinforce independence by determining what your child is capable of doing on their own. Visual checklist help students as they are learning organizational and time management skills.
  • “First Things First” mentality is recommended. School work is priority over extracurricular, but talk with your older children about ideas.  (Ex:  Student who performs better in the early morning may do better waking up early versus staying up late).
  • Week at a glance and then one day at a time.
  • Use of planner and other organizational tools are encouraged. You are helping to develop these skills when you discuss your own ways you stay organized and able to meet deadlines. 

 

 

Healthy Sleep Hygiene

The process of going to sleep is highly dependent upon behaviors, and disruptions in your bedtime routine may lead to difficulty falling asleep, insomnia. Children and adults alike need to mentally prepare to go to sleep with ritualized behaviors. By engaging in specific activities, we can better make this transition and improve our rest. Discover some of the best sleep rituals and bedtime routines that will help you to sleep, including reading, listening to music, or taking a bath.

Sleep Is a Behavior

Sleep is certainly a physiological process—a chance for rest that conserves energy and an opportunity to process memories and improve learning—but it is also a behavior. In a very real sense, our bodies can ​learn to sleep well, and we can also learn to sleep poorly. Our body follows a natural circadian rhythm, and by keeping a consistent sleep schedule, we can reinforce this. As part of better sleep guidelines, we can make other choices—including establishing a bedtime routine—that likewise improve our sleep patterns.

How We Benefit From Bedtime Routines

Sleep rituals prior to going to bed allow for us to unwind and mentally prepare for going to sleep. Sleep is a quiet, relaxing activity, so it doesn’t make much sense to try to transition to that directly from something that is quite the opposite. Our bodies don’t do well with abrupt changes. Quiet sleep rituals help ease this transition, preparing us mentally and physically for sleep.

Recommended Sleep Rituals

Sleep rituals should include quiet activities in the brief period before bedtime. How much time you spend unwinding may vary.  If your kiddos fall asleep immediately on most nights, you may not need much time to transition. However, if your children struggle with falling asleep, a longer period of sleep ritual might be helpful.  In general 30 minutes is sufficient, but as you transition to your new routine you can anticipate more time needed.

What sleep rituals should be part of your kiddos bedtime routine? These will vary and depend largely on personal preference.  Overly stimulating activities, such as aerobic exercise, doing work, using a computer, playing video games, or watching stimulating television may disrupt their sleep habits.  It is recommended that overstimulating activities should be avoided 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime.  For kiddos with electronic devices, consider having a docking station outside of their bedrooms.  Some relaxing options before bed would include reading, warm bath or shower, listening to relaxing music, prayer/reflection, journaling etc. Check out sleep recommendations by age group and other helpful information by visiting the National Sleep Foundation website .

Please know we are here to support and brainstorm additional ideas with you and your family.  These are general tips, but does not encompass all that you might desire to put into place to have a “groovy” year! 

You are not alone, we are here.

Your St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities School Counseling Team

Tips for Caregivers

One of our children’s most basic needs is a stable connection to their caregivers. Critical to their emotional health is this feeling of connectedness to us, which enables them to feel loved, understood and wanted.

Here are three important moments in our children’s days that can be used to make a huge investment in our relationships with them, the payoff of which is emotionally healthy children and strong family relationships.

Upon Waking

When your children wake each day it is your first opportunity for connection. It is at this time that our children are going through their first transition of the day – from sleeping to awake and all the business of the day. Five minutes of connection at this time of day can transform your morning! By starting the day with connection, our children are so much more likely to be co-operative and able to connect with others. This time of day can be a difficult time for many families and present as a chaotic time of the day.  It takes a lot of conscious effort on the caregivers’ part to make it a calm moment of connection opportunity. 

Here are some ideas for connecting in the morning:

  • Make eye contact first thing. Look your child in the eye, and let them know they are important to you.
  • Use their name. Greet your child warmly, “Good morning, Mary! How did you sleep?”
  • Hug. Start the day with physical contact! Brain research shows that after 20 seconds of a full embrace through a hug, your body begins to secrete oxytocin. This is the powerful love hormone that helps us feel bonded to others.  So, offering a 30 second hug to your child every morning can do wonders for connection.  Brain research also shows benefits to receiving 8-12 servings of hugs a day. 

 

At the end of their school day or your work day and/or dinner time

Being excited to see your child at the end of their school day can do wonders for connection.  Be intentional with this moment and use it has an opportunity to reconnect after a busy day.  It is very easy to finish a work call or be preoccupied with other areas of life when you connect back with you child and lose this opportunity to connect.  Be mindful that they notice this and show them you are crazy about them.  This shows them they are your priority.  Your nonverbal cues showing care and concern do wonders.  Speaking of wonders…wonder a bit.  Explore with them their day from a place of curiosity.  Even if it was a tough day for them it is ok to ask “I wonder what that was like for you.”  Being a curious parent is recommended for all ages of children.  Try to avoid a lot of closed ended questions and using the word why.  Be curious and give them space to share. 

Meal Times

Meal times can be a great time to have a positive connection.  It is recommended to not use this time to discuss any areas of concern.  Keeping it positive and a time to reconnect is advised.  Individual conversations might be needed at another time if there are areas of concern that need to be addressed.  The Columbia study identified that three meals in a week shared by a family shows a positive trend in a child’s nutritional and emotional health.  It also suggests that 5-7 meals (breakfast, lunch or dinner) a week has the greatest benefit in teen and family health. 

 

Bedtime

Wrapping up the day with a moment of connection with your child(ren) is very meaningful.  You might even find that laying shoulder to shoulder with the lights out helps your teenager open up about life (you might find this true with car rides and walks one on one with your teen as well).  You might also find that a bedtime ritual that is positive and allows for a moment of connection leads to less frustration at bedtime.  This 10 minute investment of your time can provide them a safe time to express their emotions, share a story together, say a prayer or anything else that will allow for the end of their day to be one of connectedness and feelings of love.  Ending the day with a hug is not a bad idea, since we need 8-12 servings of hugs a day. 

 

If you have any questions about anything above or would like more information, please contact Michelle Frossard at mfrossard@stecharities.org