Parenting

  • Taking Control of Your Mental Health!

    June is a month filled with sunshine and joy for many of us.  The days are longer and the weather is better.  Students, parents and teachers excitedly start the countdown to summer vacation. At the same time, the corporate culture at offices around the country shift  into a slightly more relaxed mode with stuffy board room meetings exchanged for company gatherings at outdoor cafes.  

    As we try to wrap our minds around “outside being open”, we’re still trying to reconcile what coming out of quarantine will look like for each of us.  Will we be wearing masks in the dead of summer?  Gloves at the beach?  Is it safe?  Should I allow my kids to play with friends?  What if “it” comes back again?  

    These are all very valid concerns.  Many of us are experiencing the same angst.  To be completely honest, no one can offer definitive answers at this time.  That, in itself, is scary.  When things feel as if they are getting out of control, it’s important to try to remain grounded; which is easier said than done.


    Do you need to seek immediate mental health care?  If so, the following may be helpful:   

    • If you believe you are having a mental emergency, call 9-1-1;
    • If you’re not having an emergency and you have a mental health provider, please contact him/her to schedule a teletherapy session;
    • If you don’t have a mental health provider, contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline at 800-950-NAMI or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

    If you believe that you don’t need the assistance of a mental health provider, practicing self-care can provide prospective and relief.  

    • Step away from the situation temporarily, if you can.  Change the routine so that you can come back and reassess the situation through a different lens. Watch a favorite movie, take a long drive or a soothing bath.
    • Do something physical.  Take a walk or run to clear your mind.  Download a workout app such as the Nike Training Club on iOS or on Android
    • Come to terms with the reality of the situation.  Control what you can.  Ask yourself questions.  Can I realistically control my situation?  If not, what can I control.  How do I break this into smaller pieces so that I can handle things piece-by-piece?

    According to NAMI:

    • 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year
    • 1 in 25 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year
    • 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year

    These statistics have undoubtedly increased by the current pandemic.   

    As human beings, we find comfort in knowing that we are not alone. Reach out.  Call a trusted friend.  Oftentimes, sharing personal thoughts and feelings aloud allows one to hear things differently.  Carrying the burden alone is tiresome and unhealthy.  Share it with someone you trust.

    Although the summer months are upon us, some of our family, friends, co-workers or neighbors are feeling dark and gloomy.  Check in with your loved ones and be open to reaching out if you find that you are not okay.  

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  • Quarantine Edition: How to Make Up for Lost Time

    It seems like way back in December of 2019, many of us in the United States of America watched the Coronavirus take China by storm. Never, in our wildest dreams, would we imagine that covid-19 would find itself ravaging our own communities. If someone told me that I might be missing my daughter’s 8th-grade graduation and the graduations of other family and friends, I would have never believed you. We are in a new day of video conferencing in lieu of birthday parties and gatherings. While no one is happy about having to miss important milestones, most of us realize that staying home is the only way to keep our loved ones and neighbors safe.
    Our children, who have a more narrow scope of the world are likely to feel robbed of the opportunity to partake in the ceremonial aspect of graduation. Similarly, many parents have watched what feels like a time-lapsed video of their child turned young adult work so hard to get to the culminating point of their education, high school graduation, since as far back as they can remember.
     
    Socialization, an essential life skill, is a large part of what children learn within a typical school day.  School schedules, structured play and lunch rooms are designed intentionally to promote conversation amongst peers. Children who are not socialized with peers have a tendency to become withdrawn and may show signs of depression or anxiousness.
     
    If you’re feeling at a loss for how to give your children back some of what being quarantined has taken away, here are a few helpful tips.
     
    1. Plan virtual gatherings instead of in-person meetings.
     
    My daughter celebrated her birthday 10 days into our State mandated stay in place order. Her sister celebrated her birthday a month prior. Anyone who has had the pleasure of having same-gender children 2 years or less apart, knows that birthday parties must be equal in nature or no one in their house will be at peace.  
     
    Being quarantined was completely a new ideal and I was absolutely terrified to have to leave my home in order to get anything for her birthday. As parents, we do what we have to do to make our children happy.  We even got to virtually party with friends and family that live too far away to have celebrated with us in person. The party was a complete success and she was so happy!   If you would like to learn more about how to plan a virtual party, send us a comment in the section below and we will put up a post showing step by step instructions on how to plan the best virtual party ever.
     
    1. Put a positive spin on the situation for yourself and your children.
     
    We miss our friends. We miss our old life. We complained about Monday mornings but what wouldn’t we give to be sitting in traffic on our way to the office right now. If we are constantly complaining about being stuck in the house and modeling how miserable we can be to our children then they may internalize our thoughts and feelings as their own. The human brain is not fully developed until about the age of 25. accordingly, most children do not have the emotional intelligence or the cognitive ability to be able to fully process everything that is happening in our world when it comes to the effects of the Coronavirus.
     
    Our children tend to see the world through their caregivers’ eyes;  good, bad, or indifferent.   Instead of being unhappy not having the ability to physically touch my loved ones, have a dialogue around how fortunate we are to be able to call or video conference our loved ones because the world has slowed down. Children are like sponges, they soak in everything around them. What are you pouring into your children for them to soak up?  
     
    As adults, we are aware that this situation will not last forever, although it may feel like it has been forever. Children may lack perspective and hearing constant negative thoughts from caregivers, news sources or otherwise may prove to be emotionally taxing for youngsters. It is imperative to take on the mantra that “thoughts become things”.
     
    1. Use this as an opportunity to teach your children how to Pivot.
     
    A large part of how we are teaching our children how to respond to being quarantined, or many situations in life, has to do with our mindset. Along with a positive mindset, it is also equally important to teach children that life happens. Teaching resilience and flexibility are important skills that children are going to need to tap into for the rest of their lives.  
     
    A buzzword in business nowadays is “pivot”. Businesses who made clothing prior to March of 2020 are now churning out masks for essential workers and manufacturers have changed their scope of business to be able to produce much-needed ventilators. Life does not always go as planned. This is a real-life example that we can turn into a teachable moment for our children to learn how to adjust to life’s lemons.
    The effects that covid-19 will have on our society will be emotionally, physically and financially astounding for years to come. How we choose to respond to hardship will, in large part, determine how quickly we are able to recover from it.  

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  • Quarantine Edition: Communicating with your Child’s Teacher

    Are you having trouble communicating with your child’s teacher?

    Many of us around the country are about six weeks into being quarantined at home with our families. Some families have adjusted well and have fallen into a routine of successfully balancing the new norm. However, some parents are still struggling with helping their children complete remote school assignments. In addition to extra housework, parents have found themselves feeling completely ill-equipped to help their children do their school work and it’s simply just not working for any member of the household. Overwhelmed parents have expressed that they are at their wits end with non-communicative teachers and their sea of seemingly endless assignments.

    So, what is the best way to communicate with your child’s teacher?

    I came across a complaint from a parent expressing her frustration with her child’s teacher. I’ve paraphrased to protect the parent, child and school district’s identity but the gist of her grievance is:

    I’m so over my son’s teacher. I emailed her to contact me days ago and I still haven’t received a phone call. In my email, I stated that I found some of the assignments confusing and told her that she needed to be meeting with my son and his class at least twice a week.

    She finally replied via email and told me that she taught the kids how to complete the assignment while in class so she doesn’t know why I’m confused. Obviously, I wasn’t sitting in class when she covered the subject matter. I’m sitting at my computer and I’m so irate with her condescending tone. I really want to give her a piece of my mind!

    I’m able to see both sides here. I’m a parent, educator and founder of Kid Care Concierge, where a big part of my job is to supervise teachers. Here are 4 tips that will lead to better communication with your child’s teacher while under quarantine.


    Ask very specific questions in order to get a direct answer. Instead of expressing that you’re confused, it might be more helpful to reword your reply to say that your child doesn’t understand x concept and you don’t want to further confuse her so you’re requesting the teacher to either send you step-by-step instructions of how to s/he’d like for you to teach her. You could also email the teacher to request a time to speak with him/her to go over the concept so that you can assist your child with the assignment. As tempting as it may be, cursing the teacher out will do nothing except further escalate the situation. Instead, be firm, direct and intentional in your communication with your child’s teacher.

    A little understanding goes a long way. It’s safe to say that the world has a collective newfound appreciation for teachers. Quarantined parents everywhere are wondering how teachers are able to supervise and educate 25 students at one time, day in and day out. Be mindful that your child’s teacher may be teaching your child while trying to manage to keep his/her own children quiet in the background.

    If the teacher has a “fiery” personality or just has a smart mouth, s/he probably didn’t take too well to the parent demanding how often she should meet with children. I agree that meeting with the child more frequently may clear confusion and there is never a reason to be non-communicative within a professional relationship, but the teacher is not going to make that extra effort if a parent is going back and forth with him/her.

    If the school day normally ends at 3:00, don’t expect a reply from the teacher after that time. Realize that other parents are likely confused, frustrated and have contacted the one teacher numerous times. Some teachers are teaching full classes of students, totaling over 100 students per day. Some teachers are without help with childcare or may have lost a friend, family member or student while being quarantined and are unable to properly grieve but continue to be there for your child and others. Teachers are still required to plan and write lesson plans, grade tests, write report cards and attend virtual meetings with their superiors all while caring for their own children, cooking, cleaning and trying to navigate getting essential groceries after they’ve finished teaching each day.

    Here’s where you woosah, grab a glass of wine or mediate before replying to the teacher.


    School districts provide a service to the school community. Teachers are on the front line so they get the pleasure of having to respond to irate parents who are oftentimes frustrated by a system the teacher did not create and cannot control.

    I’m going to share a little secret with you. Everyone except for teachers and parents who were homeschooling prior to novel coronavirus is winging it. Homeschooling is different than virtual learning. Trust me, I’ve written homeschooling curricula and it requires experiences that parents cannot provide while being quarantined. School districts had no intention of teaching virtually on a consistent basis; therefore, they did not prepare for it. Scaling a half year of a full curriculum into a virtual curriculum in less than two weeks while in the midst of a pandemic without some missteps is unrealistic. So what have districts done? The best that they can. Since I’m being completely honest here, let’s take it a step further and realize that although teachers are true heroes, they are human. Some adapt extremely well to change and will go above and beyond to make the transition as painless as possible for families. Others oppose change and shut down when it’s imposed upon them.

    Some districts are telling teachers how often and how to meet with students. Others leave it up to the teacher. Some school districts are requiring students to log in by 9 and work throughout the day, while others are simply requiring students to complete under two hours of work per day. In the example above, I’d email the teacher during school hours to request that s/he virtually meet with the child to clarify questions one additional day per week for extra help. Most teachers normally hold some form of office hours to provide extra help to students, so it’s not unheard of for a parent to make such a request.

    If the teacher is flat out non-responsive, contact the principal/district to gain clarity on how often they expect teachers to meet with students. Make sure that you keep a log of time and dates that you’ve attempted to reach out to the teacher and the nature of their reply. If the teacher is not doing what s/he is supposed to by district standards, then you’ll have an email thread to share with her supervisors showing that you’re a concerned parent who is not getting the help your child needs.

    Educationally speaking, we’re navigating uncharted territory. Clear communication is the only way we’re going to make it through this unprecedented time. We are all stressed out for a variety of reasons. Venting to a teacher and directing them how you want them to virtually teach your child may fall upon deaf ears. When contacting your child’s teacher while under stay at home orders be specific regarding requests and understanding when it comes to limitations, also keep in mind that the parent-teacher relationship is professional in nature and correspondences should be sent and recorded accordingly and be realistic.

    xo, Natasha

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  • Quarantine Edition: Parents Are Not Okay

     

    The effect of being quarantined at home with children has added another layer of stress to many   of our households, and quite frankly, some parents are not okay.  This is a time like no other.  We are all struggling to get through the days.  TGIF has turned into just another day of virtual learning, countless trips to the fridge and our names being called more than ever imaginable.

     

    A mother recently reached out disclosed that she was struggling with managing “EVERYTHING”.  She shared that since being placed under stay at home orders her stress level has gone through the roof, as she has been working full-time from home on her business, while cleaning, cooking, cleaning, figuring out virtual learning with her 5 children, changing diapers, giving baths, coordinating nap times and managing the emotional rollercoaster that comes along with a spouse who has recently been laid off.  

     

    Her plea for help really pulled at my heartstrings.  As a parent, I get it.  I’ve been there to some degree.  When my daughters were young, I stayed home with them.  I also started a small business so that I could continue to stay at home as they got older.  It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  Years later, I literally get a rush of a tension headache when I think about sitting at my desk in my home office trying to speak to employees on a conference call that I purposely scheduled during nap time, breastfeeding my newborn (ouch), while my two-year-old was running in circles, refusing to take a much-needed nap. Blink and it was dinner time.  It wouldn’t be fair to say that I can reasonably imagine how it would feel to add helping an elementary school-aged child with virtual learning assignments or not being able to have a reprieve at the local park. So, if you are an overwhelmed parent that is not okay while being quarantined, you are not alone and my heart goes out to you too.  

    If I might perhaps provide an alternate perspective, I’ll tell you that the more I speak to parents, the more I realize that our experiences of parenting while quarantined vary greatly dependent upon the ages of our children. I found that parents with children under the age of ten are extremely overwhelmed by the day-to-day effect of having to shelter in place.  While parents of children ten and above are oftentimes as overwhelmed,  our stressors vary slightly.  We also have the privilege of looking through a lens with hindsight vision.  


    So, for parents with multiple children who are trying to balance it all, many seem to really be struggling.  It’s important to lean on other parents who are going through what you’re going through or have gone through what you are experiencing in order to regain your footing.  Call, video conference or group chat with other parents and share your experience.  Some will have it worse.  Some will have it better.  Some will be at their wit’s end on Monday afternoon, others by Wednesday morning. 

     

    Last week, I had a three-hour conversation with another mom.  In the middle of the work-week.  Who does that?  We did because we both desperately needed it.  We needed a safe space to vent and recharge.  I Had dinner late that day.  Yep!  But who cares?  My family needed me to remain sane, so dinner was late.  No one starved and no one got the displaced wrath of this momma bear. I’d call that a win-win.  Wouldn’t you?

    While we all are staying home in order to keep our families, neighbors and front line heroes safe, it is possible to reclaim a sense of normalcy by getting out of the house, even for a moment.  If you’re fortunate enough to have your own yard, take time to enjoy it.  Make time to let the kids get out and play, run and use some of the energy that they would be expending at school during recess.  That’s why schools allow children to go out for recess even on cooler days.  Children have this amazing energy that needs to “get out”.  

    Flashback to my own two-year-old running around my home office.  Remember the varying perspective that I promised to offer?  When I was working from home with my newborn and toddler, I was so focused on trying to balance life as a perfect wife and super mom, that I oftentimes didn’t take advantage of the moment.   And, although at the time I had a graduate degree in psychology, was a certified school teacher, worked in a variety of daycare centers and schools with children of all ages; I was better prepared than most, I neglected to take a real step back.  Theoretically, I knew that I should’ve taken my two-year-old outside to run off the energy which would have led to her sleeping longer and sounder.  

    I’ll be completely honest, having two kids in two years, including a total of three months of stress that came along with doctor required bed rest over the two pregnancies and sleep deprivation like nobody’s business, makes one toss every last one of those child development books out of the window. Clearly, some common sense went out with it.  I’ll just blame it on the mommy-brain.  It’s a real thing, you know? 

    Seriously, get everyone out of the house.  Just let them take in the fresh air.  Don’t have a yard?  That’s fine, don’t leave the doorstep. Open the front door. Change rooms.  Move the kids from the back of the apartment to the front.  Just some way, somehow, shake things up.  If you feel like you’re losing it, imagine how they must feel with the purity of energy only a young child has and not being able to get it out.  

    Embrace the moment. We will never, ever get this time back.  The circumstances are horrible and we all wish that we could reset the clock back to the start of the new year, but we can’t.  What we can do is try to be positive and realize that this is all temporary.  

    The parents I speak to, like myself, with children over the age of 10 are stressed about going to the grocery store to feed their insatiable appetites, are worried about how this time of remote learning will affect applying to college later or how missing an entire season of sports will impact our children’s future.  However, as we are preparing them for their next phase of life, memories of their childhood become fainter. Many of us are envious of you.  Knowing that we’ll never get this time back is a reality that glares at us while in this stage of parenthood, we’re taking in the time we have left with our children before they leave the house.  No matter how hard things are, they will get better.  

    I needed to steal that three hours to talk to my friend.  They might need the same and may not realize it either.  You know what? Our breaks help everyone maintain their sanity in our household.  So, take a walk, alone, if you can.  My children are older now, so I make them run around our yard to get fresh air.  Sometimes, I’ll do it in the middle of the day during one of their virtual learning breaks. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself and your family.  Everything else will fall in place. 

    Your little ones will grow up and they will have actual memories or your pictures and videos to serve as memories.  I regret scheduling nap time conference calls instead of more time outside with my girls.  Create memories that you’d never thought you’d have.  Make the pillow fort that you don’t have time to make under regular circumstances. Break the schedule to enjoy PB&J outside.

    If you or someone you know is struggling during this pandemic, please click the link below for emergency and mental support. 

    COVID-19 RELIEF

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