3 Ways to Combat the “Post Break Blues”

Happy Wednesday families,

For many of you, another spring break has come and gone about as quickly as snowbirds flock back North once the summer heat returns in South Florida.

Your family may be experiencing some post break blues, and getting back into the school and work routine can be challenging for you and your tween or teen. The good news is there are some simple steps to make this process less painful all while encouraging your child’s development in skills like personal responsibility, consistency, and healthy thinking patterns.

1. Encourage time for reflection

The eb and flow of life is something that your children are learning to become familiar with and understand during their growing years. During the first week back to school, take time to sit down and reflect with your children on their feelings and thoughts regarding their break and stepping forward into finishing the school year. You can try this by playing the “roses and thorns” game in the car ride to or from school, or during dinner time this week. Ask each member of your family to reflect on the highs (roses) and lows (thorns) over their break. You may be surprised that some of your child’s most memorable moments were simply eating breakfast with you, or laughing at a funny video on YouTube. This also sends the message to your child that their input matters, and they are being heard. Win win!

2. Slowly adjust back into routine

Even for parents, it’s hard to keep the school, work, and home, life running like a well oiled machine. For teens and tweens, sticking to a consistent schedule can be a very difficult yet effective task to build responsible and healthy patterns. Be aware that changes in schedules can increase anxiety in your children. Although they may not admit it, youth THRIVE on structured schedules. In their day to day lives in school, every second is structured from arrival to dismissal. Consistency in your routine will help your child have a smooth transition back to their schedule. This week put some extra attention on those little details in routine, your child will notice and will model your behavior of slipping back into your schedule.

3. Stay Future Oriented

In case your counting it won’t be too long before summer vacation is here and schedules will yet be changing again. (70 days if your curious). Post vacation blues can produce more intense feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and lack of future thinking for you and your children. It can be helpful to have a goal or event to look forward to after a major shift in routine. Sit down this week with your child to discuss something coming up for your family in the future such as their school spelling bee, chess club competition, or Easter service participation. Encourage them to look forward to this event and prevent them from maintaining a “stuck” mindset. Children learn that everything is temporary, the good and bad times will come and go. How you as a parent model this transition is imperative in your child’s understanding of how to navigate inevitable changes in schedule and routine.

No matter what your feelings about going back to the grind, remember that your children are learning by watching and looking up to how you handle change! Have a wonderful week families!

Michelle Smith MS, RMHCI

(405) 323-1786

Raising Millennials: A New Generation of Parenting

A recent study stated that full time parenting is the equivalent of working 2.5 full time jobs. It’s true, parents are doing now more than ever to protect and encourage proper physical, mental, social, and emotional health for their children. Everyday parents are looking for new strategies to combat violence, social media, teenage angst, and family conflict. Millennial parents are truly deserving for praise for navigating the trial and error to understand parenting in the modern day.

Because being a parent is one of the most demanding and at times least appreciated job, it’s time to take a look at your own parenting regiment and make some changes for a happy and healthy spring ahead!

1. Take Time for Yourself

You’ve heard the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup”. As cliche as it may sound, it’s so important that as a parent with multiple responsibilities you are building regular consistent time in your schedule for self-care. Self-care is vital to being able to provide the best you possibly can to your family and loved ones. Figure out what revitalizes you and stick to it! Try taking a local donation yoga class, or sign up for a monthly massage membership! Many parents feel guilty taking time for themselves because they feel they may be “taking away” from time they could be spending with their families. Truth is, if we don’t take well deserved “me time” we loose the potential to be our very best at any given moment. Take time away to be a better you and leave the guilt at home!

2. Be Consistent with Family Guidelines

In my last post, we discussed the reality many millennial parents are facing protecting their children from the dangers of social media. It is important that as a family the messages regarding social media guidelines, usage, and rules you decide is best for your family remains consistent. Encourage your child to be a part of the conversation and support their understanding of the boundaries and reasons behind them. Give your child a safe place to be able to voice their opinion. Allow room for validation of feelings, and then encourage your child to let go of the emotion in a healthy way. By using this strategy, your family can avoid the teenage power struggle that many families find engaging in over and over to the point of exhaustion! Keep it consistent for less troubles down the road!

3. Get Involved

As busy schedules, life transition, and chaos can get in the way of doing as much as we would like to or feel we should be doing, and if you have the opportunity to be involved in your child’s life make it a priority! School line pick up, parent teacher conference nights, school performances, clubs and auditions. All of these are opportunities to send the message “You are Important!” something so many children, tweens, and teens so desperately need to hear from a safe and caring adult. Involved parents are informed parents. Getting involved and staying consistent are wonderful ways to be proactive to stay involved in your child’s life!

If your looking for fun and free spring break activities in Palm Beach County during Spring Break click here!

If you or someone you know is looking for tips on increasing communication skills and family bond with your child or teen contact Michelle Smith, MS, RMHCI at 405-323-1786 for a consultation for individual, couple, or family therapy services

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What Parents Need to Know About the Social Media Children and Teens are Consuming

It would be an understatement to say that social media govern the lives of our youth at any given moment. A recent study reports that tweens ages 8-12 spend an average of 6 hours in front of a screen a day, for teenagers 13 and above that number increases to 9 hours a day. Our youth are spending more time online than they are sleeping, in school, or doing any other activity.  As a parent, it can be confusing and concerning navigating the waves of the technological boom and deciphering an appropriate boundary when it comes to social media.

The internet is a vast plethora of 7.4 million people’s imaginations. The information shared can be dangerous, violent, sexually exploited and worse. Our children’s minds are not fully developed to consume this content and distinguish the validity or even make decisions about it. Even adults at times have trouble distinguishing this content, can we expect our children and teens to be able to decipher it without support or knowledge from a caring adult?

You may be thinking “Well my child is advanced enough to understand it”. Unfortunately, science says otherwise. The prefrontal cortex, the area which covers the front part of the brain, controls planning, complex thoughts and behaviors, decision making, personality expression, and moderates our social behavior. Essentially, it governs our executive functioning. Because the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until age 25, many of our children do not have the ability YET to carry out the critical thinking necessary to be safe online.

In addition, studies have also shown that social media can be addicting. In fact, app developers are actually working to make these apps addicting so they increase their revenues, spending thousands of dollars on studies of the brain to market and reel in our vulnerable youth. Scientists have found that teenagers can even experience withdrawal symptoms from social media. You may have seen witnessed some of these in your own children such as panic attacks when electronics get taken away, anxiety about being away from electronics or wifi, anger, and temper tantrums. We wonder why our children’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. The media they are consuming is a large contribution.

Consistent social media usage also leads to low self esteem, cyber bullying, and can increase suicidal ideations for teenagers already struggling with depression. Bullying no longer stops when your child gets in the car to go home from school. Now harassment follows them home on their devices, preventing the opportunity for children to recharge and engage in self care.

If you haven’t downloaded and looked at some of the things your child is consuming online, you are living in parenting La La Land. Teens post nude photos, suicide ideas and plans, gang related or violent material, and drugs and alcohol. 30% of teens have reported in a recent study that they believe their parents know “nothing” or “a little” about what they do online.

Last week I spent a lot of my time providing support to a family who recently found out their 14 year old son was sending sexually explicit content and sharing homicidal ideations with an active plan to friends on an app called Hangouts.  This app is accessed through Gmail accounts, and friends can message back and forth in group chats. It broke my heart to watch a loving and caring mother begin to see the reality of what is happening on her child’s social media. For this family, early intervention is no longer an option. They are now playing catch up trying to provide the support needed for this young man.

Be proactive when it comes to restricting media content from your children. Taking away electronics if they have already had unlimited access will be harder than setting firm and clear boundaries in the beginning. Provide regular restrictions on the amount of time your child spends in front of a screen. Encourage them to engage in their own imagination and be mindful in the moment instead of SnapChatting it. Look for signs of social media addiction such as anger and anxiety from being away from electronics, being up all day/night in front of a screen, and being secretive regarding their social media usage. Make sure you know your teen’s phone and computer passwords, Apple ID, and the multiple accounts they may have.

Parents are responsible to protect their children. Social media provides a false security because we do not see the danger in the moment. It is our responsibility to research and discuss the dangers of social media with our children. Provide incentives for them to be without social media until 16 years old, when the brain is more capable to consume such confusing messages. When you do allow social media, track it on a regular basis using apps like Onward, Onpact, and Life360. There is an effective way to parent in the world of technology and social media!

If your teen is engaging in alarming content or you see signs of internet addiction it may be time to talk to a professional. For a free consultation for therapeutic services contact Michelle Smith RMHCI, MS at 405-323-1786

When Distance Becomes a Warning Sign

If you have spent any amount of time around teenagers you know eye rolling, sarcasm, and distance are a part of the package deal. Many of these signs are very common; however, with the recent tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High School and the national attention on mental health, people are becoming more aware now than ever before. Many parents are concerned and questioning when does isolation become a warning sign that greater issues may be on the horizon, and when is the appropriate time to reach out to a professional.

To understand adolescence fully we need to take a trip back a couple thousands of years to the prehistoric era. Adolescence historically was a necessary part of survival. Lifespans were much quicker, puberty brought the ability for women to reproduce, and the important task for men to learn how to hunt and feed their families. Early civilization encouraged distance from the family system to increase social interaction with other humans their age to learn important survival techniques.

Fast forward a couple thousand years to 2018. Teenagers are growing up in a completely different world than our prehistoric ancestors. Technology, social media, and instant gratification rule the minds of our teens. Adolescents are distancing themselves quicker and quicker from family. So how can we truly know if this distance is normal or something to question? As a parent, it’s important to put some precautionary measures in place so that early intervention can happen if necessary.

Encourage Consistent Communication with Your Teen

This may be the most important step to make sure the distance does not turn into isolation. Distance is normal; however, consistent isolation can be a warning sign that there are deeper concerns happening with your teenager. As a family, it is important to have time scheduled where family engagement is required. Make a weekly date to put the phones, TV’s computers, and emails aside and talk to your children. Not only does this increase positive social skills, but it provides an opportunity for the family to discuss thoughts, emotions, and bring up concerns. As a teenage parent, you want to encourage your teen to be as open as possible with you. You may be thinking, “But I don’t WANT to know everything that is happening inside the mind of my teenager”. While this may be true, it is important that they have an opportunity to share with you. If your teenager is not sharing their feelings with you, they are sharing with someone else, and that someone else may be someone dangerous! Set a weekly day that family engagement is required. Keep your child accountable. If your child cannot attend, they need to inform the family in the same manner they would calling out sick from their job or a prior commitment. This will encourage social skills, responsibility, and give an opportunity for your child to know it is a safe place to share inside the family.

Monitor Your Child’s Electronics

Many children being born today will be more technologically advanced than we can even imagine. From the beginning of the lifespan, we are utilizing electronics now than ever before. It is common to see 7 even 8 year olds with their own cell phone, iPad, Snap Chat, and Instagram. Technology is not a bad thing, but it is a very powerful thing. A piece of technology in your child’s hands means your child has access to limitless information which may be dangerous. Since you know your child better than anyone, you have to assess when you feel your child is mature enough to handle this enormous responsibility. It may be that one sibling is more equip to handle the responsibility than another. You as the parent have the power! Don’t give in to pressure because all their friends have a device. If you are concerned about the safety of your child not having a device but feel they are not ready for a smartphone, purchase a flip phone without internet and wifi to call and text one number only. Prior to purchasing a device for your teen, have a sit down conversation about the rules and guidelines that come along with the device. Monitor your child’s device usage, go through your child’s phone with their consent and create a consistent time to do so. Discuss the benefits and concerns with the use of technology, and encourage your teen to continue to talk to you if they see concerning or questionable things on their device.

Make sure that you allow opportunities for your teen to gain more and more freedom with their device as they consistently demonstrate responsible technology usage. For instance, maybe for the first 6 months of having the device they are only allowed 2 social media apps and the phone has to be turned in at 9PM each evening. After 6 months, sit down and provide evaluation on how well your child did with the guidelines, than provide opportunity negotiate a little more freedom such as adding a new app or increasing usage time by 1 hour.

Reach Out to a Professional

You may follow all the guidelines provided and still find your teen distant and defiant. If so, this is OK. Do not stress, simply begin by stating that you are aware of your child’s behavior and you would like to provide a solution for them to connect with someone trustworthy. Utilize your insurance, recommendations from friends and family, and set up an appointment for your teen to talk to a mental health professional. Your teen will have the safety of confidentiality, but due to their age you will also be notified regarding any suicidal or homicidal ideations, danger concerns, and can request treatment updates from the therapist.

If you or someone you love could utilize a consultation for therapeutic services in the Palm Beach area contact Michelle Smith at 405-323-1786