Talking About Weight with Your Kids

Talking About Weight with Your Kids

September is National Obesity Awareness Month, but it’s always a good time to talk to your kids about healthy eating—especially with many adults and children alike having put on weight from stress eating and inactivity due to the pandemic.

Sadly, being significantly overweight is very common. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s. 

Today, nearly 1 in 5 school age U.S. children and young people (6 to 19 years) is considered obese. When you factor in those who are considered overweight but not yet obese, the figure rises to 31%.

Why the dramatic increase? Behavior and habits are the most likely culprits. According to Dr. Sue Cohen, Director of Early Childhood and Psychological Services at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, technology plays a big role.

“Many families have become sedentary, with TV, computers and videogames as the culprits,” she says. “And it’s not just the kids; parents, too, are often modeling these behaviors.”

Of course, shaming a child for being overweight is never appropriate. From a very early age, parents should nurture a positive body image with their kids, focusing on their bodies as the miracles they are! 

But if your teen’s weight has become a health concern, you can address it in a loving, non-critical way. 

Dr. Cohen recommends approaching the issue as a family topic rather than focusing on an individual child. “The message should be that we all need to eat healthier and we can all start a fitness program as a family,” she says. “You don’t want to make your child feel badly about themselves, so focusing on healthy eating and activity rather than appearance is extremely important.”

Here Are Some Things to Keep in Mind When Broaching
The Subject Of Weight With Your Children,
From The Academy Of Nutrition And Dietetics:

Encourage open dialogue. Go ahead and talk with your children about weight and encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings about body image whenever they arise. When children discuss feelings about weight with you, be sure to listen and acknowledge that the feelings are real. If you have had similar experiences, it may help to share them. Explain that people come in all different shapes and sizes and you love your child no matter what.

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

Take action. Children learn fast, and they learn best by example. Teach children habits that will help keep them healthy for life. In general, if your child is elementary age or younger and you have some weight concerns, don’t talk about it; just start making lifestyle changes as a family. The best thing you can do is make it easy for kids to eat smart and move often. Serve regular, balanced family meals and snacks. Limit the time your child spends watching television or playing video games. Look for ways to spend fun, active time together.

Avoid the blame game. Never yell, scream, bribe, threaten or punish children about weight, food or physical activity. If you turn these issues into parent-child battlegrounds, the results can be harmful. Shame, blame and anger are setups for failure. The worse children feel about their weight, the more likely they are to overeat or develop an eating disorder.

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

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


Finding Healthy Foods

Are you among the Long Islanders whose location and/or financial issues make it difficult to access healthy, fresh foods? Many soup kitchens and food pantries don’t have a large supply of fresh groceries, but Community Solidarity shares nutritious food to those in need, with 50% of that being fresh produce. To find out more, visit communitysolidarity.org.


Sources:

www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/index.htm

www.eatright.org/health/weight-loss/overweight-and-obesity/how-to-talk-to-kids-about-weight-and-obesity

www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/facts.htm

www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/

Advice  for College Freshmen, By Kelly Christ, intern at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center

Advice for College Freshmen, By Kelly Christ, intern at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center

Leaving for college for the very first time is an incredibly challenging, exciting and important moment for students and their families. With so many uncertainties still surrounding college life amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the normal fears and anxieties in both incoming freshmen and their parents have been escalated. 

When I first left to attend college in my freshman year, the transition from living at home to living in a new state at a school where I knew no one was a challenge. But it is a challenge that was incredibly formative in becoming who I am now. I have so much empathy for this year’s freshmen, and I recognize that just as difficult as the challenges of this year are on me as a senior, the pandemic has altered many crucial traditions and elements of freshman life. 

However, regardless of the circumstance, making the decision to leave home to attend college is a major milestone for a family. It is a bittersweet moment for parents who have worked so hard to make this dream a possibility for their children. Their freshmen often feel overwhelmed in their new environment and may feel homesick, especially during the first semester. 

Quarantine has made all of us experts when it comes to communicative technology. FaceTime, Zoom and other services allow us to connect over long distances. These tools can be immensely valuable to homesick freshmen and worried parents. In my own experience, FaceTiming my family allowed me to feel connected to them while being able to become fully invested in my new experiences. Being able to check in with parents, see the family pet and connect quickly make these resources the perfect way for freshmen, in particular, to reduce anxiety. 

The uncertainty of college experiences this fall will also benefit from this quick communication. Students can stay in touch with their families and keep them updated on the situation, which can be stress-relieving for the students and their worried parents at home. 

Taking a trip home can be a great way to relieve stress during freshman year. I encourage students to not push themselves too hard and to listen to themselves if they feel they need a break. If it is a safe and possible option, a weekend trip home can make a world of difference for a struggling freshman. 

While parents will always worry about their children, it is my hope that technology will continue to connect us while we are apart. Students and families have to make the right decisions for themselves and their safety. Every student and family will navigate freshman year differently. But whether you choose to take classes remotely and stay home or choose to return to campus, freshman year is a challenge for all. It is a time to reflect on who you are and who you hope to become in the next four years. 

Some of the traditional advice for freshmen about getting involved on campus may not be applicable this year. However, schools are working hard to ensure that students can continue to connect with one another and remain engaged in their community. Club meetings are being held virtually, campus newspapers are publishing on their websites, and some traditional events are being redesigned to ensure social distancing and safety while giving freshmen the chance to have some of the cherished memories of the college experience. 

I want to encourage incoming freshmen to reach out to organizations on campus that they are interested in and see how they are operating in the fall. Even if things are being done virtually, it will still be an opportunity to connect with others and begin to establish a life for yourself in the school community. 

Schools often remind their freshmen throughout their first semester that these will be the greatest four years of their lives. But as this pandemic has shown us, we are not able to predict the future. As someone who ended up transferring from what I thought was going to be my dream school, not every moment has to match your expectations. Often, it is the act of working through the ongoing challenges and finding small moments of pure joy that makes college as special as it is. 

This is not the freshman year anyone could have imagined. But it is that unexpected reality that will forever bond this class (and all the others that have been affected). It will find joy in laughing at technology failures during online classes, sharing our fears and concerns with others to find they have just the same ones. It will make for memories that we will not forget and a gratitude like no other. We cannot predict what this fall will bring, but we can only hope for the best and be grateful for each moment. 

Help your Kids with Remote Learning By Kelly Christ, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center intern

Help your Kids with Remote Learning By Kelly Christ, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center intern

As fall approaches, the return to school is weighing heavily on students and their parents alike. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, most schools have adopted at least a partially remote learning model for the fall semester. Families were first rushed into remote learning in March 2020 as schools quickly shut down, and many are looking to find ways to improve the experience of remote learning for the fall. 

For younger students especially, remote learning can pose many challenges. Young children often struggle to remain focused on their work, and the home environment and its many distractions can heighten this difficulty. 

Parents should attempt to mitigate the distractions for their children while they are doing schoolwork. Try to find a small, quiet area of the home for them to attend virtual classes and complete homework. Personalize the space (and enjoy some creative crafts!) with poster boards and decorate with name tags, stickers and school supplies for the area. 

While it can be hard for parents to manage their children’s classwork alongside their own work and other responsibilities, it is important to help younger children stay on task. Familiarize yourself with the schedule your school has set up for your children to ensure they attend online classes and do not miss assignments.

For older children in elementary and middle school, parents can see this as a chance to foster their children’s independence. While, again, it is useful to be familiar with your children’s schedules, encourage them to keep track of their work themselves. Simple planners, dry-erase calendars and creative task lists can be helpful. 

This age group will also likely struggle with managing distractions. Encourage your children to include fun activities in their schedules. Once their school day comes to an end and their homework is complete, use these activities, such as video games or outdoor play, as a reward for finishing their tasks.

It is also important for these children to keep in touch with their peers safely. Explore virtual options to connect with friends, including Netflix party and Jackbox Games. Weather permitting, take advantage of the outdoors to spend time with friends safely and enjoy the fresh air. 

High school students will need their own space to do their work. Ensure that they have a quiet environment to attend their remote classes and work on their assignments. These students will need to stay on top of their responsibilities. With remote learning, this can be a challenging task for the most organized of students. Encourage them to maintain planners and take advantage of online resources. Google Suite offers many different services that can aid students of all ages, including Google calendar, drive and classroom. Applications for both smartphones and computers can also help to stay on track, including the Reminder app from Apple (already pre-installed on all their devices!) and Todoist. 

College students are in a particularly difficult state of flux. With many schools opting for either hybrid or entirely online plans, many students are unsure of where they should choose to stay. If you are on-campus, explore the options that are safely open. Libraries and study spaces at many universities have been redesigned to ensure social distancing and adherence to safety protocols in order to remain available to students.

Whether at home or in a dorm, be sure to establish a dedicated space for studying and attending classes. Just like all the other age groups, minimizing distractions is a must. When attending an online lecture, consider putting your phone in another room and set all notifications on your computer to “do not disturb” for the class time. 

Make a master list of synchronous class times, in-person class events (if you have them), asynchronous assignments and due dates, as well as the dates of any exams you have and the way in which they will be administered. Reflect on the end of last semester and the beginning of online courses. What worked for you? What did not? 

Reach out to your peers, advisors and professors for advice if you find yourself accidentally falling behind. Many professors are empathetic given the turbulent situation, so try not to get too down on yourself if you slip up. You are only human, and your professors know this too. These are trying times for everyone, so remember to be kind to yourself. Just as younger kids will need dedicated time for non-school-related activities they enjoy, incorporate alone and self-care time into your schedule. 

While this semester will be challenging and unpredictable, parents and students alike should attempt to stay focused and calm as best they can. 

Dr. Sue Cohen, Director of Early Childhood and Psychological Services at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, expresses the challenges remote learning poses on families. “This process can be difficult for teachers and students,” she says. “In addition, the parents/caregivers might be juggling their own jobs, childcare issues, teaching their children and technology issues.”

Here are some tips from Dr. Cohen for families helping their children with remote learning:

  • Encourage movement – build in time for exercise and movement before and during your child’s school activities.
  • Reduce distractions including noise and visual clutter. 
  • Enlist your child in setting up a designated workspace that is comfortable.
  • Give your child, and yourself, breaks during the day.
  • Particularly for young children, give immediate positive feedback like a sticker or check mark on completed work to help with their motivation.
  • Establish good and healthy routines in the home.

By preparing ahead of time, you will make this challenging situation a workable experience!

Powering Through an Outage, By Dr. Sue Cohen

Powering Through an Outage, By Dr. Sue Cohen

On Tuesday, August 4, heavy wind and rain from Tropical Storm Isaias hit much of the east coast. More than 2 million customers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut lost power as a result of the storm’s impact. One week later, some are still in the dark.

While power outages are always frustrating, the situation was made much more difficult with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A large number of people are working from home and are dependent on their power, WiFi and phone services to be able to do so. With the cancellation of many summer programs and activities, lots of kids are bored at home already, and without power, they lose much of the entertainment they rely on so heavily.

As Director of Early Childhood and Psychological Services at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, I’ve seen how COVID-19 and social distancing protocols have reduced or even eliminated many opportunities for respite, such as staying at the home of a friend or relative who has power. All your usual options that can help in an outage aren’t necessarily there.

It is crucial that parents do their best to remain calm, as your children will model their own behavior from you. When you lose it, they will do the same—and, fortunately, the opposite is true, too.

Before the next outage hits, take preventative actions by creating power outage kits for the entire family. These should include necessities such as flashlights, batteries, nonperishable food and water, but also off-the-grid activities for the family to participate in together. In our digital world, it is especially important for children to find engaging activities that do not take place on a screen. Power outages provide an opportunity to introduce these experiences to your children and remind them of the need to disconnect every so often.

Though it can be hard to find anything positive that has come from the COVID-19 pandemic, parents have mastered the act of improvisation. For months, they’ve learned how to entertain anxious children and navigate uncertainty. While power outages can be difficult, they offer yet another opportunity to spend quality time with your children and to explore new activities.

Parents need to take a step back and try to think outside of the box. Power outages have provided the foundation for some of my most treasured memories. One time, my daughter wanted to bake cookies, but due to the power outage, she attempted to make them on a pancake griddle. Though the cookies may not have turned out as good as usual, the memory is one that always brings a smile.

Parents should also attempt to find the positive in this situation. Just as your children should try different, off-the-grid activities, you should do the same. It’s easy to slip back into the smartphone-focused world we usually live in. Use this opportunity to establish small habits such as daily reading or writing time or meditation exercises that can bring calm to your day.

Younger children may enjoy hands-on activities such as making crafts, going on a scavenger hunt, putting on a puppet show or playing dress up. Older children can get lost in a book, engage in healthy competition in a board game or learn card games.

No matter the season, power outages are difficult for families to deal with, but when they occur alongside a pandemic and a heat wave, they are even more challenging. However, this experience may serve as a teaching moment for parents and kids to learn the benefits of unplugging and finding enjoyment in the simple things in life.

Sources:

After Isaias, 2.5 Million Still Without Power in New York Area

50 Things to Do with Children in Power Outage

Advice  for College Freshmen, By Kelly Christ, intern at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center

COVID and College: A Student’s Perspective, By Kelly Christ, Intern at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center

This school year will certainly be one like no other. For college students like myself, the idea of another remote semester can be incredibly frustrating, and it is hard not to feel anxious about the opportunities and experiences we have lost. College is built around time spent with peers, from living together in dorms to cheering on our school teams. With so much surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic still in flux, many college students do not know what this fall will bring.

I will be beginning my senior year at Fordham University in the Bronx this fall. I am incredibly grateful to be attending school in New York, where cases are considerably lower than the rest of the country. The process of moving in will not be as complicated, as I do not have to quarantine myself, nor do my roommates. Even so, I have struggled with a lot of anxiety throughout the summer already, wondering whether I am missing out on so many precious senior year traditions and whether we could potentially be sent back home.

Universities are taking many different approaches to the situation, and it largely depends on where the school is located. I was given the opportunity to opt for remote classes or in-person (with the professors being given the final say). I am able to live in my apartment on campus regardless of which method I choose. 

With many classes being held online, whether by choice of the students or the professors, the financial benefits of still paying for on-campus housing or an apartment nearby are uncertain. Many students are grappling with paying large amounts of money to live with their peers and attempting to preserve what they can of the traditional college experience. Others are opting out, choosing to take online classes from home. Students from universities across the country have even urged for their schools to lower tuition due to online instruction. 

There is no right answer in navigating the college experience amid the unprecedented pandemic we are facing. The decision to move on-campus, live in off-campus housing or stay home, as well as to take online or in-person classes, are deeply personal. Each student must consider their own comfort level, their physical and mental health, their financial situation and much more. 

No matter what you have decided, the uncertainty looms above us all. It is hard not to feel like we are still losing so much as things continue to be cancelled or changed. Knowing that my senior year will, at least for the first half, be held largely online with a much quieter campus environment is upsetting, but I am comforted in knowing that we are all in this together. We are putting the health and safety of the community first, and that is what matters most.

I have found that this experience has taught me so much about myself. What I can handle, how much I can overcome. This generation that is experiencing such upheaval in times that are so precious will emerge with a strength that we will carry throughout our lives. 

The uncertainty has brought many of us together, and this shared experience will be a deeper bond for the classes of 2020, 2021 and so on that we will not forget. We are also living in an age of technology that has allowed us to stay connected above all. While undoubtedly not the same, this technology is a vital tool for us to continue to remember those who are still by our side and who are struggling with the same worries and fears. 

Anxiety is normal amid any kind of uncertainty, and we must learn to never feel guilty or ashamed for being worried. If you feel that you are struggling, do not hesitate to reach out to family or friends. There is no shame in seeking help — if you feel that you need assistance, mental health resources are here for you, including North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, which is seeing clients remotely. Remember that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Just months ago, many of us could never have imagined a situation like this. But here we are, and here we continue to go. We cannot make up for the time that would have been spent on campus. It is a reality we must come to terms with in order to move on. However, college is much more than the campus itself. It is the community forged from the shared experience of an institution and, if anything, going through this together, as a school community, can strengthen that. We know now that we can handle whatever is thrown our way.

Postpartum and the Pandemic, By Kelly Christ, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center intern

Postpartum and the Pandemic, By Kelly Christ, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center intern

Pregnancy and childbirth can be challenging experiences at any time. But amidst a global pandemic, many of the typical difficulties have been escalated. Many unknowns still linger regarding the potential impact COVID-19 can have during pregnancy as well as the virus’ potential impact on young children, making this an incredibly stressful time for new and expecting mothers in particular. 

Unfortunately, one recent finding has demonstrated a worsening of anxiety and depression in new mothers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study, from the University of Alberta, found that the rate of symptoms of depression in new mothers amid the pandemic was nearly three times the rate of new mothers’ symptoms pre-pandemic. 

Concerns about financial security, job stability and overall health weigh far more heavily on new and expecting parents now than ever before. Considering the pandemic’s widespread financial difficulties, the prospect of paying for all the expenses that come with a new baby can be incredibly daunting. 

The rate of symptoms of depression in
new mothers amid the pandemic was
nearly three times the rate
of new mothers’ pre-pandemic.

Added stress can also come from the precautionary measures to protect against the spread of COVID-19, especially social distancing. These measures can mean that extended family, grandparents particularly, may not be able to provide the support (such as childcare) for the new parents as they might normally. This can add to the parents’ stress and is also an immensely frustrating and disheartening reality for the grandparents and other family members who may not be able to see the new baby safely. Additionally, concern about potential exposure to the virus in public settings, especially during essential doctor visits for the newborn, aggravates anxiety symptoms.

Though the pandemic has heightened depression and anxiety rates for mothers, postpartum depression has been on the rise for many years. Postpartum depression is a mental health condition following childbirth in which a new mother experiences symptoms of depression that do not go away, as do the traditional “baby blues.” Some symptoms include feeling disconnected from the baby, a lack of motivation, restlessness and overwhelming feelings of sadness.

Statistics point to a notable disparity in the age of the mother. Teenagers face the most risk, with teenage mothers twice as likely to develop postpartum depression. Teenage mothers also suffer from higher suicidal ideation rates and are more likely to suffer from PTSD due to a higher likelihood of exposure to traumatic events. 

Racial disparities play a role in both maternal mental health and teenage pregnancy. Researchers have noted that Black mothers suffer from postpartum depression and other perinatal mood disorders at a higher rate than white mothers. Additionally, though rates of teenage pregnancies have been decreasing across races, the pregnancy rate among Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black teenagers is more than twice that of non-Hispanic white teenagers. Given the connection between postpartum depression and teenage pregnancies, intersecting racial disparities can create an incredibly vulnerable new mothers’ population. COVID-19 has only added to this vulnerability, with the virus disproportionately affecting racial and ethnic minority groups. 

North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center has two programs that address postpartum depression. One is called Good Beginnings for Babies, which seeks to help pregnant and parenting teens in a variety of areas to combat these vulnerabilities. Dr. Nellie Taylor-Walthrust, director of the program, explains, “The goal is to reduce the isolation of young parents in the early years of their child’s development and increase the community’s sense of responsibility for young families, by building a community of young parents who support one another.” This support is crucial in preventing adverse mental health conditions for teenage mothers. 

Good Beginnings for Babies also provides screening for maternal depression and other perinatal mood disorders, as well as treatment or referrals for mental health care. 

The other program is the Diane Goldberg Maternal Depression Program. It provides rapid response and diagnosis for mothers of all ages suffering from postpartum depression and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders

Good Beginnings for Babies is located at Leeds Place – Serving Young People, our office in Westbury. For more information, contact us at info@northshorechildguidance.org or (516) 626-1971. 

The Diane Goldberg Maternal Depression Program is located at our Marks Family Right from the Start 0-3+ Center in Manhasset. Call 516) 484-3174, ext. 415.

Why Telehealth Matters, by Kelly Christ, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center intern

Why Telehealth Matters, by Kelly Christ, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center intern

In the age of COVID-19, seeing a health care provider in the traditional office setting has become a potentially dangerous matter. Many health care providers, including doctors, mental health professionals and others, have closed their physical sites for their clients’ safety.

But a viable, necessary alternative has emerged in the form of telehealth, which refers to the use of communication technology such as cell phones or laptops to access health care services remotely. 

North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center seamlessly pivoted to telehealth after our offices were closed in mid-March, and we’ve been seeing clients for individual, family and group therapy since that time. We’ve found some unexpected benefits of telehealth, including the ability to bring together family members who may have lived apart; getting insight into a client’s home life; and seeing clients who, because of illness, lack of transportation or other issues, cannot come into the office.

In addition, many individuals in need of mental health services may hesitate to get help, or even avoid it altogether. This can be for a variety of reasons, including (but not limited to) an inability to afford the services or the pervasive stigma surrounding mental illness. 

Unfortunately, a delay in receiving these services can have devastating effects. Without help, the situation often escalates, and it can even grow into a matter of life and death. As Andrew Malekoff, executive director of the Guidance Center, explains, “Access delayed is access denied.” 

Malekoff highlighted the value of telehealth in a recent Long Island Weekly article, where he emphasized recommendations for New York State to permanently remove barriers to telehealth services after the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided. He noted the experience of Vanessa McMullan, a clinical social worker at the Guidance Center, who discussed her recent experiences with clients and the benefits of telehealth in a variety of circumstances. 

In one example, McMullan noted that many new mothers may delay mental health treatment out of fear that they may expose their vulnerable babies to illness or due to a lack of supervision for children at home. Given the pervasive nature of postpartum depression and other maternal mental health issues, this resistance can be highly detrimental to the mothers and their families. As McMullan explains, “These women are typically those who need services the most.” 

With family therapy in particular, therapy sessions via video calls allow therapists to have a new sense of connection and intimacy with their clients. Therapists are able to see into the client’s home life and are able to understand more of their context than when in a removed office setting. The ease of online visits also enables the inclusion of family members who may be difficult to include in a traditional therapy setting, such as separated parents living in different areas. 

Increasing access to telehealth services could also allow young adults attending college away from home to maintain a relationship with their local therapist, thus preserving the work that has been done. 

While telehealth tools are not a perfect replacement for face-to-face sessions, they are undoubtedly a necessary service that enables accessibility of mental health care, and they should remain an option for the future. Accessibility of these services is more vital than ever, with rates of anxiety and depression rising rapidly amidst the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now is the time to utilize all tools at our disposal to ensure that clients who need care can receive it in a timely manner. 

At North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, accessibility to mental health services for all is a central mission of ours. For more information, we invite you to learn more about Project Access, an initiative designed to identify obstacles to accessing necessary care and finding solutions for change. 

Sources:

Beating the Pandemic Blues By Kelly Christ, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center intern

Beating the Pandemic Blues By Kelly Christ, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center intern

This summer is certainly like no other. With many camp programs cancelled and other seasonal activities altered or postponed, parents are struggling to find ways to keep their children occupied and happy. Here are some fresh ideas to enjoy the time with your family.

Children ages 6 and younger may struggle to understand the vast changes in our lives due to the pandemic. It is important that parents explain the situation at an appropriate level for their children’s understanding. Cohen Children’s Northwell Health has created an engaging and creative coloring book with valuable tips to keep your child safe from coronavirus germs. 

Though the situation can seem scary for young children, remind them to see the brighter side of things: For example, while they may not be able to see their friends as much or participate in some summertime activities, more time at home also means more time spent with parents, siblings, extended relatives and pets! 

Young children may have a particularly hard time being in the house too much. This is a great opportunity to explore what nature has to offer nearby, with local parks serving as exciting and socially distant adventures for families!

Older children, ages 7 to 12, are very likely to feel frustrated by cancellations of their usual summer activities due to COVID-19. Encourage children to tap into their creative side! See if your children want to try their hands at different crafts. Do-it-yourself projects can bolster creativity, confidence and focus. For some ideas, Good Housekeeping has compiled a list of 50 at-home crafts, including banjos, mini volcanoes and a kiddie car wash!

The internet has a wide array of free entertainment resources for children bored at home. If your child has already managed to read every book on his or her shelf, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has published a free children’s book, The Ickabog, on her website! She is also hosting an artwork contest for children ages 7 to 12 with a chance to see their illustration featured in the printed edition of the book due out this fall. 

Children and teenagers 13 to 18 years old are grappling with complicated feelings this summer. They may be missing friends or feeling anxious about what school in the fall will look like. We encourage parents to have conversations with their children about feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. This can be a great chance to start an open and compassionate dialogue with your child about mental health. Sometimes, the best thing a parent can do is to simply listen. 

If your child is struggling with difficult feelings, journaling might be a good hobby for them to take up this summer. Journaling has been associated with many benefits for mental health and is often used as part of therapeutic treatment. Bullet journaling has garnered attention for its unique blend of mindfulness and productivity training. For the 13 to 18 age group, these habits can boost their state of mind and help develop productivity and organization skills that can greatly assist them during the school year.

Remind your children that though this summer may be frustrating at times, positivity can always be found. Encourage them to value self-care time and to continue to emphasize it in their lives. Be creative with new traditions and activities that entertain and excite in a safe manner. How you respond may even help shape how they respond to obstacles in the future!For more resources related to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit our website.

Living Off-Screen During Quarantine? By Kelly Christ

Living Off-Screen During Quarantine? By Kelly Christ

While staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have spent an increasing amount of time on our cell phones. Today’s cell phones can practically do it all, from the endless wealth of information that is the internet to mindless yet hopelessly addicted games. Social media apps have become incredibly popular recently, and they can indeed give users a needed respite from the loneliness that social distancing has contributed to. Americans of all ages also rely on popular sites such as Facebook and Twitter for much of their news. But is this increased screen time doing more harm than good in the long run?

Social media has provided a near-constant flow of information about the virus since the beginning of the pandemic. Forbes reports that YouTube has become the primary platform for approximately one in six Americans for the latest news about the virus.

YouTube is, of course, far from the only platform that has been a source of news throughout the pandemic. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have all transformed the traditional news experience. Instead of gathering around the television in the evening to learn the news, Americans are given access 24/7 to an endless stream of information. This access may inhibit the ability to separate ourselves from current events. While it is always important to stay informed, setting limits and boundaries to access is a healthy approach, especially for children.

Amid uncertain times, such an overwhelming stream of information, especially when so much of that information is rather upsetting, can take a toll on your mental health.

While social media has plenty of positive aspects, it is not without its flaws. Social media apps like Instagram and Snapchat are incredibly popular among kids and teenagers in particular. With the abilities to share photos and connect with friends, social media became a crucial tool for young students who were sent home from school to keep in touch with their classmates while at home. Being able to connect with friends online can help to mitigate feelings of anxiety and loneliness that have been so common during the pandemic.

However, as the country begins to reopen, we must consider the long-term effects of this addiction for kids and teens especially. While adults may be able to switch back into their old habits upon returning to work, it is likely that younger people will continue these habits. After all, teenagers and young adults are the largest population of social media users already, so this new rise is merely a heightened version of what they were already doing.

Younger generations are becoming more and more dependent on their cell phones and the internet for nearly everything. The coronavirus pandemic, in particular, is showing just how much news information social media apps can share with its users, whether it is accurate or not.

However, as parents, we must encourage ourselves to dive deeper and educate ourselves and our children beyond catchy headlines and aesthetically-pleasing photos. Social media cannot tell the full story, both in terms of news and our social lives. It is advisable to remind your children that social media is a highlight reel — not a full life.

Rather than catching up on social media, try to connect with others by calling or video chatting. Though still through a cell phone, these more personal means of communication can help to maintain the important connections of relationships while apart.

If you find yourself spending too much time on your phone, there are many ways to help curb your habits. Apple’s devices are equipped with “screen time,” which allows users to set daily time limits for certain types of applications. Other apps like “Space,” which includes the ability to set goals for more mindful phone use, and “App Detox,” which sets rules for specific apps, can also help.  Of course, it may seem counterintuitive to use smartphone apps to limit your screen time. Simple tips such as leaving your phone in another room to avoid checking it unnecessarily can be just as effective!

Parents must understand that if they want their children to reduce their screen time, they must walk the walk themselves. When spending time together put your own phone away, and encourage your children to do the same. For younger children especially, daily “screen-free” time should become an essential to avoid an over-reliance on devices. Take some time together to spend outside on a nice day, reading or gardening together. If you need to beat boredom, redirect your child’s normal screen habits to unplugged equivalents. Find board games and puzzles to entertain a video game-addicted child, or encourage a little Netflix addict to read a book (perhaps the book that their favorite movie or show was based on!).

Again, parents must instill these habits in their own lives in order to set a good example. Children will learn when it is okay to be on their phones based upon your actions. Hopefully, we can use this as a chance to look mindfully upon our relationship with technology and make some changes for the better. After all, many of the best moments in life are those when you forget to look at your phone!

Sources:

Keep Safe this July 4th! By Kelly Christ, North Shore Child & Family Guidance intern

Keep Safe this July 4th! By Kelly Christ, North Shore Child & Family Guidance intern

This summer’s 4th of July celebrations across the country will certainly look different than any year before. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, most major firework displays have been cancelled to prevent large gatherings that could spread the virus. 

While many states have elected to forgo public firework displays altogether, some have attempted to innovate. New York City’s famous Macy’s 4th of July fireworks have been “reimagined” this year, and they are taking place over the course of six nights. With an element of surprise, the fireworks displays will be unannounced and brief, thus avoiding any large gatherings that could increase exposure to COVID-19. 

As Independence Day celebrations are kept small, there is a possibility that some families will attempt to have their own fireworks display. This, of course, poses quite a safety concern — especially when those handling the fireworks are not fully aware of the safety precautions necessary to mitigate risks. 

Recently, news outlets have reported an uptick in illegal fireworks across New York State, and some neighborhoods have been reporting complaints about the fireworks since May. Though this year may not have the professional firework displays we normally attend, it is not worth the risk to attempt your own display. The dangers to yourself, your family and your neighborhood are too great. Instead, watch television programs of fireworks or provide your children with safer options such as glow lights for after-sunset fun. 

Another issue: Many children are afraid of the loud noises from the fireworks. If there are firework displays in your neighborhood over which you have no control, keep your kids in a safe area and comfort them about their concerns. Assure them that they are safe and that their fears are understandable. If necessary, keep your child in an especially quiet part of the house or give them headphones that can block the noise. 

It is also important to remember that our pets are often quite scared of fireworks as well. Be sure to keep them inside and ensure that they are in a protected, secure location to prevent injury or escape. 

Please keep the safety of your family and neighborhood in mind as you decide how to celebrate the holiday. While fireworks may be an exciting spectacle, they are not worth the potential risks that could come if mishandled. The loss of some of the most popular July 4th firework displays this year can certainly be disappointing, but safety must come first. Use this as an opportunity to innovate and create new traditions for your family to celebrate the holiday! Some potential ideas may be:

  • Use safer alternatives to fireworks or sparklers for children such as glow sticks or watching televised firework displays.
  • Bake or cook new recipes with your children to have them be involved in a hands-on way with the traditional barbecue.
  • Have a competition with various backyard games that the whole family can play (perhaps it can become an annual tournament!).
  • Call or video chat with loved ones who cannot attend the celebration.

This will also set a great example for your children as they learn to make the most out of the situation and look on the bright side. 

For some important tips on how to keep your family safe during fireworks celebrations, kidshealth.org provides a great list for parents to follow. For more safety tips for the summer For some important tips on how to keep your family safe during fireworks celebrations, kidshealth.org provides a great list for parents to follow. For more safety tips for the summer season, visit the National Safety Council page on summer safety. 

Sources:

https://nypost.com/2020/06/29/macys-to-begin-nyc-firework-shows-tonight/

https://13wham.com/news/local/gov-cuomo-announces-new-plan-to-stop-illegal-fireworks-as-frustrations-sky-rocket

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/fireworks.html

https://www.nsc.org/home-safety/tools-resources/seasonal-safety/summer

Court Ruling Gives Hope to LGBTQ+ Youth By Kelly Christ, social media intern at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center

Court Ruling Gives Hope to LGBTQ+ Youth By Kelly Christ, social media intern at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center

On June 15, 2020, the United States Supreme Court declared that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay, lesbian and transgender employees from being discriminated against on the basis of sex. The decision has sent a crucial message that LGBTQ+ individuals deserve protection from discrimination in our country. And, perhaps most importantly, the ruling serves as a beacon of hope for young people struggling in the face of bullying and unaccepting loved ones because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

As we have highlighted before on our blog, LGBTQ+ individuals are at a higher risk of mental health issues than those who do not identify as LGBTQ+. The research on young people is especially heartbreaking: the National Alliance on Mental Illness reported that high school students identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual are nearly five times as likely to attempt suicide than their straight classmates. 

As children and teenagers venture on the ever-challenging journey to figure out who they are, the typical trials and tribulations of adolescence can be made much worse by bullying or discrimination. LGBTQ+ students are more vulnerable to being bullied or harassed due to their identity. This vulnerability may motivate these young people to stay in the closet and hide their true selves, which is another burden on their mental health. 

Additionally, many LGBTQ+ youth face disappointment from their families about their sexual or gender identity, and some are even kicked out of their home by unaccepting parents. Being rejected by those who they love and trust the most can have devastating effects on their mental health. Research studies have consistently supported this, as rates of depression and suicide attempts are markedly higher for LGBTQ+ youth whose families are not accepting of their sexual orientation or gender identity

In the face of rejection, the LGBTQ+ youth of today can look to the news for hope in the wake of this Supreme Court decision. Other laws have proven effective in mitigating mental health problems in LGBTQ+ youth, including anti-bullying laws in several states. While there is undoubtedly much more progress to be made, these legal decisions are a big step in the right direction.

Legislative protections are just one way progress has been made. For young people in particular, schools that had support groups for LGBTQ+ students found that these students were less likely to experience violence, feel unsafe at school or attempt suicide. 

Given the influence of school and home environments on the mental health outcomes of LGBTQ+ youth, parents, family members, teachers and others should act as empathetic and supportive guides for these children and teens. Schools and parents should also take the initiative to discourage homophobic or transphobic language and jokes, to encourage their children to be accepting of their peers no matter their identity, and to continue to value diversity and inclusion. 

Though some parents may struggle to accept their child’s identity, the desire to listen and learn rather than reject their child outright can make a world of difference in helping LGBTQ+ young people feel safe and respected. With this respect, they can find the worth in themselves that so many young people struggle to see, regardless of gender or sexual identity. 

Sources:

Understanding Racism as Complex Trauma, By Kelly Christ, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center intern

Understanding Racism as Complex Trauma, By Kelly Christ, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center intern

While trauma is often viewed as a single, specific incident, trauma can also be accumulated over time. One of the most poignant examples in the United States is racial trauma experienced by people of color. These individuals are often subject to racism in both direct and indirect ways as they navigate life under a system that has largely been built against them. 

Psychology experts have indicated that trauma stemming from systemic racism can contribute to symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Oftentimes this trauma is intergenerational or transgenerational—meaning that racial trauma experienced by one individual can have lasting effects on their children, grandchildren and so on, making them more susceptible to mental health issues. 

Black children growing up in the United States face racism from an early age. In school, racist microaggressions may come in the form of jokes made by peers invoking racist stereotypes, being followed in stores on unwarranted suspicion of shoplifting, or insensitive comments about skin color. 

A childhood filled with continual instances of being put down in such a way can build into an experience of trauma. It can contribute to a young black girl feeling like she will never be pretty enough to meet the standards of beauty, a young black boy feeling that he will always be perceived as a threat and so on. 

Parents of black children bear an immense responsibility to reassure their children’s sense of worth in the face of racism. Black parents themselves have likely experienced similar discrimination in their own lives, as have their parents. The ongoing nature of this issue makes it even more difficult to regain hope for their children’s future. 

Additionally, parents of black children must teach them early on how to handle interactions with police officers in order to stay safe. Having to face this reality so young can instill feelings of anxiety and build upon the trauma that has followed their family for generations. 

As a result, whether or not to call the police in the event of a mental health emergency can be a difficult decision for people of color. Black Americans often fear the threat of violence, and for those for whom English is not a first language, the risk of miscommunication is incredibly high. Social workers like those here at North Shore Child & Family Guidance often must play the role of advocates and translators when possible in order to ensure a safe interaction. 

The inability to fully trust these resources to provide essential help results in an inequity in accessibility. In crisis situations, this accessibility is imperative, and the inability to achieve it can foster widespread community trauma. 

Unfortunately, black Americans are also less likely to have their mental health problems adequately addressed than white Americans. Though stigma around mental health is a barrier to seeking treatment for many individuals, black Americans have the added fear of being misunderstood or judged due to racial biases. In a population that experiences trauma in the form of systemic racism on a daily basis, these fears may make black Americans more vulnerable to mental health issues.

Combating the stigma around mental health should start at home and at a young age. Parents must encourage their children not to feel ashamed of their emotions or any difficulties that they may be having. 

It is also imperative that racial discrimination be seen as a potential source of trauma for people of color in the United States. By recognizing the traumatic nature of racism, the necessary mental health treatments can be developed and utilized. 

The response to the death of George Floyd should serve as a reminder that the systemic issues of racism are pervasive, and they undoubtedly affect the youngest generations as well. We must encourage children to be empathetic and to recognize racism in any form as harmful. By recognizing the traumatic impact of systemic racism, those subject to it can receive the help that they need. For black Americans, it is needed now more than ever.

Sources:

https://www.courier-journal.com/story/opinion/2020/06/12/racial-trauma-can-leave-black-people-ptsd-symptoms/3160232001/

https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/02/legacy-trauma

https://psychologybenefits.org/2016/07/14/racial-trauma-police-shootings-on-african-americans/

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20191204/african-americans-face-unique-mental-health-risks

Encourage Activism in your Kids and Teens, By Kelly Christ, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center intern

Encourage Activism in your Kids and Teens, By Kelly Christ, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center intern

Since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, protests have occurred in all 50 states demanding justice for Floyd and an end to police brutality. The movement has gained international momentum, with Black Lives Matter protests occurring across the globe. 

Young people, in particular, have been showing up in large numbers to anti-racism protests being held throughout the country, demonstrating that the next generation is dedicated to the development of a more just and tolerant society.

Many kids are taught from a young age that they should speak up for what is right. From stories of heroism in literature to anti-bullying workshops in schools, children learn that it is up to them to have the courage to take a stand against unjust treatment. To reiterate this so much in childhood, yet discourage them from taking part in civic activism, renders the entire effort futile. 

It is important for parents to remember that their child or teen’s passion for certain causes and desire to get involved in events like fundraisers or protests are crucial steps in the development of their conscience and personal beliefs. 

Even those parents who want to encourage their children to be active and engaged with causes they are passionate about may hesitate to allow them to attend the current protests. With the COVID-19 pandemic still an ongoing concern, many parents fear their kids could get sick. Though many protesters have been wearing masks, adequate social distancing is nearly impossible with such a large gathering of people. And, though violence has been rare, it is still something that parents will likely factor in their decisions.

These concerns bring to light another essential lesson that parents must share with their children: courageous and dedicated activism comes in many forms. 

By definition, a protest is a “solemn declaration of opinion and usually of dissent.” Though marches and other public protests undoubtedly demonstrate solidarity and dedication to the cause, there are many other ways to protest racial or any other injustice if you feel unsafe attending these events. 

As our Executive Director Andrew Malekoff explains, “If, as a parent, you feel strongly about particularly social issues, the best way to motivate your child is to be a good role model through your own civic engagement. This can be through public participation such as demonstrations or protests, quiet or animated but respectful conversations with friends or relatives, letter writing expressing your opinion for possible publication, fundraising activities or volunteering behind the scenes.”

With the constant stream of social media, it is easy to feel like we are not doing enough, or doing the wrong thing, when we see posts of others attending protests, sharing information and signing petitions. For non-Black allies especially, empathy and education are the highest priorities. The learning process is constant for children and adults alike, and it is imperative that social media is not the be-all and end-all of allyship. 

While social media is a great way to promote awareness and valuable resources, real change occurs offline. It happens in difficult conversations with loved ones, initiatives of diversity in schools and workplaces, efforts of charitable organizations and much more. 

The Black Lives Matter protests have shown, once again, that the younger generations provide hope for a better future. “The best we can hope for is that our kids eventually become active participants in community affairs and help to change the world where we have failed,” says Malekoff. 

Parents should encourage their children to apply the passion behind protests throughout their lives, finding small moments to make meaningful change and listen to the needs of others.  Teach them never to lose the spark of youth and the vision of a brighter future—no matter how many obstacles may stand in their way. 

As Mahatma Gandhi said in 1931, “If we are to reach real peace in this world, we shall have to begin with the children.” 

Sources:

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/06/world/gallery/intl-george-floyd-protests/index.html

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/08/what-have-protests-achieved-george-floyd-death-police-funding-statues

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/03/politics/young-activists-george-floyd/index.html

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/protesthttps://www.goodreads.com/quotes/5816-if-we-are-to-reach-real-peace-in-the-world

Teach Your Children About Racism

Teach Your Children About Racism

By Kelly Christ, social media intern at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center

The death of 46-year-old George Floyd after being arrested in Minneapolis has rocked the United States. Floyd’s death exemplifies the disparities in victims of police brutality, as black men are at a higher risk of being killed by police. 

In response, protests have taken place in major cities across the country demanding justice and an end to racism and intolerance in America.

With this heightened awareness of racial injustices, parents can use this time to teach valuable and necessary lessons to their children about the value of diversity and the need for empathy.

Parents play a crucial role in shaping their children’s prejudices and racial biases from a young age. As touched on in an earlier article on our blog, children naturally notice differences between themselves and others, which gives parents an opportunity to have important conversations with their children about what these differences mean.

Though we may think that very young children do not have the capacity to understand such a heavy topic, research has shown that racial biases can be internalized by children by ages two to four years old. 

In order to make meaningful change, parents must raise their children not to be blind towards others’ differences but to celebrate them. The systemic underpinnings of racial injustices in America will not be undone overnight. It will take a generation of Americans who are accepting and empathetic to make strides toward equality.

Literature can be an incredibly important resource for children to learn about the plight of Black Americans. For young children, it is important that parents present them with picture books and other forms of entertainment that represent diversity in a positive light. For some ideas, Time Out has compiled a list of children’s books celebrating diversity and inclusion. 

As children get older, parents should look to help their children understand the history of racism in the United States. This can supplement their education in school, perhaps by having discussions about the implications of historical events such as the Civil War that have impacted racial dynamics in the country. Doing so allows children to understand the larger-scale issues at hand in moments of racial prejudice.

Additionally, children should feel comfortable talking to their parents about such troubling instances of intolerance or prejudice. This could be the bullying of the child or a peer due to their race or seeing headlines in the news like the death of George Floyd. While parents may feel apprehensive embarking on these discussions, their importance cannot be overstated. By beginning an open dialogue about race, children will learn the value of listening and developing a sense of empathy for the experiences of others.

Inclusive literature is just as important, if not more so, for older children, teenagers and young adults alike. Modern young adult fiction novels such as Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give and Nic Stone’s Dear Martin can help teenagers take a deep look into the experience of racism in America. 

For white children, these stories can further develop the sense of empathy. Inclusive literature is also incredibly valuable for children of color who do not see characters who look like themselves often enough. These stories will equip them with the knowledge that they are capable of being the hero of their own story. 

Historically, young people have played major roles in social movements. From the civil rights movement in the 1960s to the March for Our Lives in 2018, young people have proven to have the intellectual capabilities and the strength to be leaders who can influence the hearts and minds of adults. 

Though this movement has been motivated by tragedy, it is important that parents underscore the positive elements of the moment. Young people are standing up for what is right, taking a stand against injustice, and proving that their generation will continue to pave a path toward equality. 

Sources:

Astonishing COVID-19 numbers for U.S., New York and Long Island, by Andrew Malekoff, Blank Slate Media, May 16, 2020

Astonishing COVID-19 numbers for U.S., New York and Long Island, by Andrew Malekoff, Blank Slate Media, May 16, 2020

I celebrated my birthday on May 14 in the year of COVID-19.

My wife Dale and I usually go out with friends for our birthdays. Obviously, that wasn’t happening this year. So, we ordered in from one of our favorite Italian restaurants. I had baked ziti and Dale had seafood over pasta. We had a seven-layer cake for dessert.

It was a beautiful day all day, sunny and in the fifties. Some would say too cool for the spring, but perfect for me. After working remotely all day I took an hour-long walk.

Of course, walks now involve masks and neighbors dodging one another as if we all have some kind of disease. Then again, that’s the point. Maybe we do.

For my birthday, I assigned myself a research project.

I thought it would be interesting to get further perspective on current circumstances, by conducting a country-by-country, worldwide comparison of confirmed COVID-19-positive cases, against the New York Metro area numbers of the same.

Worldwide there were 4,294,101 confirmed cases of infection on May 14. My study includes only countries with more than 10,000 confirmed positive cases, interspersed with numbers from a few nearby places that we are all familiar with.

The United States leads the way with 1,420,000. But, before any other country enters the mix, I discovered that New York State at 340,661 cases leads the next country on the list, which is Russia at 242,271, followed by Spain, the United Kingdom and Italy at 221,216.

To be clear, I’m not including a population comparison or accounting for underreporting or variable rates of testing. Just raw numbers.

Next on the list is New York City (all five boroughs combined) – I want to be a part of it New York, New York – at 188,545, beating out Brazil and Germany, both in the 170,000s and topping the State of New Jersey – ba da bing – at 141,560 barely topping Turkey and then followed by France, Iran and the People’s Republic of China.

China reports 84,464. How can that be right?

Less than 10,000 behind China is Long Island at 75,892. We’re less than 10,000 behind? How did that happen?

Close behind Long Island is India at 74,281, followed by Peru and Canada. Just topping 70,000. Before we get to the next country – Belgium, Queens, comes in at 57,748, which is followed by Brooklyn at 50,667 – Fuhgeddaboudit.

Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands are in the low 40,000s just before Nassau County which is at 38,587, a few strides ahead of Mexico and, followed by Suffolk County at 37,305.

Among the countries that follow Nassau and Suffolk Counties, all with more than 10,000 and in descending order, are Ecuador, Switzerland, Portugal, Sweden, Qatar, Belarus, Singapore, Ireland, United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh, Poland, Israel, Ukraine, Japan, Austria, Romania, Indonesia, Colombia, South Africa, Philippines, Dominican Republic, Kuwait, South Korea, and Denmark.

I thought it was astonishing that after the United States, which tops the list, that New York State, New York City and New Jersey were among the top 10; Long Island and Queens in the top 20; and Brooklyn, Nassau and Suffolk Counties all in the top 26 worldwide.

Happy birthday to me.

Andrew Malekoff

Andrew Malekoff is the executive director of North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, the leading children’s mental health agency on Long Island. The Guidance Center is seeing new and existing clients via telephone and video during the COVID-19 crisis. To make an appointment, call (516) 626-1971. Visit www.northshorechildguidance.org for more information.

Give Yourself – and Your Kids – a Break

Give Yourself – and Your Kids – a Break

LIBN Column April 15, 2020, By Jenna Kern-Rugile

Rumor has it that Shakespeare wrote King Lear during the plague. So, how’s working at home during our modern day plague going for you?

Social media and other sources are replete with articles about how you can use your time during the pandemic to be more productive. Not only are you supposed to be working remotely at full capacity – or even harder, because, after all, it’s a time of crisis for your company– but you’re told it’s a great time to learn a new hobby, declutter your closet, get in shape and, while you’re at it, write that play or novel that’s been brewing in the back of your mind.

While you and your family are experiencing one of the most stressful, uncertain and challenging times in our country’s history, you are being encouraged to tackle your to-do list and use all of those “extra” hours to accomplish more than ever.

Really?

The truth is, we are all in survival mode. Not since 9-11 have we felt a similar shock to our systems and existential threat to our welfare. And, with no definitive end to this period of isolation and upheaval in sight, you are bound to be way more than a little off your game.

The roles we use to define our worth—our ability to earn a living, to protect our families, to provide an education for our children—are under threat. A large part of our identities are based on interactions with our colleagues, friends and family. But the need for social distancing has thrown those foundational elements of our lives into chaos.

While the chances of you or a loved one dying from COVID-19 may be relatively small in stark terms of percentages, it’s not at all unreasonable to be so frightened that focusing on even simple tasks is difficult.

Bottom line: Now is not the time to put pressure on yourself to be a superstar. Give yourself—and your employees, bosses, kids and everyone else—a break. If you’re working from home, expect to be less productive than usual. We’re all living through a period when our bodies and minds are on high alert. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed. In fact, it would be unnatural to feel otherwise.

If you’ve got kids at home, the challenges are multiplied. You’re now expected to be teacher, playmate and parent. If you work on the front lines, or in a grocery store or any other public-facing job, you’re putting your health at risk. And your financial portfolio has likely tanked.

For everyone’s sake, adjust your expectations. Expect your kids to be more clingy and anxious than usual. Expect them—and yourself— to be more tired or easily triggered to anger. Let your loved ones express their feelings, and talk to someone about your own. Tell your kids it’s normal to be frightened, but reassure them that the best scientists in the world are working on solutions, and that we will get through this.

Instead of training for the marathon, focus on the basics for you and your family: Eat healthy foods, mostly. Take some walks (dogs are loving this). Get up from your desk and stretch. Play ball with the kids. Allow yourself to get some extra sleep. Keep clearly defined work hours. Limit your news consumption to a “need to know” basis.

Don’t isolate. Use technology to stay in touch with peers, friends and family. Texts aren’t enough. Use Zoom or FaceTime so you feel truly connected. And when speaking with your co-workers, ask them how they’re doing.

We’re in uncharted territory, and there’s no right way to cope. This is a time when doing the best you can is a perfectly acceptable goal.

Bio: Jenna Kern-Rugile is Director of Communications at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, a children’s mental health agency that serves all of Nassau County. The Guidance Center is seeing new and existing clients via video and phone while its buildings are closed. For more information, visit www.northshorechildguidance.org.  To schedule an appointment, email info@northshorechildguidance.org or call (516) 626-1971.

Helping Kids Cope During the Pandemic

Helping Kids Cope During the Pandemic

Do you feel like your world has been turned upside down?

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating an escalation in anxiety, fear and depression for the entire population, both young and old. It’s a traumatic experience for everyone, regardless of whether they were experiencing mental health challenges prior to the crisis. 

The highly trained therapists at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center are dedicated to serving their clients during this enormously difficult time. While our buildings are closed, we’re conducting therapy sessions via phone and video conferencing.

Here’s just one story of how this new process is working to support the children and families in our local communities.

One of our therapists was concerned because her client, 16-year-old Heather*, had left her grandmother on Long Island to be with her mother in a Midwestern state when the crisis first took hold. Heather normally lives with her grandmother, but since the elder woman was home recovering from COVID-19, the entire family felt it was best for Heather to stay with her mom. 

The Guidance Center therapist contacted Heather on the phone and set up a video session. 

Heather has pre-existing anxiety and depression issues, and the pandemic was making her symptoms even worse. She was understandably afraid about the health of her grandmother, whom she had lived with since she was a young girl. Although she was relieved to be spending time with her mother, she felt guilty about leaving her grandmother behind.

During the video session, Heather told her therapist that she had been having trouble getting out of bed in the morning because she felt so sad and exhausted. The therapist worked with Heather to develop a plan of action so that she could use her coping skills. They talked about setting up a healthy routine – getting up at a reasonable hour, showering, eating, taking walks and writing in her journal. 

Heather was able to realize that, despite the many things that are not in her control, she did have the power to make wise choices to support her mental health. The therapist also scheduled a video session with Heather and her mother, so they both will learn how to communicate and support each other during this very stressful time.

All of the therapists at the Guidance Center have reached out to their clients, setting up appointments so they can continue their paths to healing. They have also taken on new clients who are struggling with COVID-related fears.

If your children or teens are experiencing anxiety, depression or other challenges, whether or not they are related to the pandemic, we are here to help. Call (516) 626-1971 or email info@northshorechildguidance.org.

*Not her real name.


Strategies on Reassuring Your Family

  • You are the best role model for your children, so when speaking about the epidemic, remain calm and reassuring. 
  • Remind them that scientists, doctors and other experts are working every day to come up with treatments for the disease, and that we can trust they will find the best solutions.
  • Ask them what they have heard about the virus, so you can correct any misconceptions.
  • Establish a daily routine that includes time for schoolwork, exercise, screen time, play and creative pursuits. 
  • Use this time together to establish some new family traditions, such as game night or movie night. 
  • Expect your kids (and teens too) to need extra attention and love during this trying time.
  • Be sure to incorporate self-care practices. You cannot take care of others if you are not in good health, both mentally and physically.

Astonishing COVID-19 numbers for U.S., New York and Long Island, by Andrew Malekoff, Blank Slate Media, May 16, 2020

“The Weather Channel and COVID-19,” by Andrew Malekoff, Blank Slate Media

One of my favorite phone apps is the Weather Channel. I check it every day, sometimes several times a day, to track the temperature, wind and precipitation in my zip code.

If I want to, I can search any zip code anywhere. It helps me to prepare for when I plan to walk or go bike riding. It is also helpful to see how the weather conditions might affect my commute to and from my office at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center or when I plan to travel anywhere in New York or beyond.

On the bottom of the opening page of the app there are icons that lead you to a quick view of hourly and daily weather conditions, as well as radar. I usually stick with hourly and daily views. I have looked at the radar page, but I haven’t figured it out yet.

The hourly and daily icons are presented in a gray outline and the radar icon in blue. I’m writing this on a cloudy and foggy morning, with light rain all day. I just checked the hourly icon to see if the rain is going to stop so I can take a walk. Sometimes I like to walk in the rain. But not today.

Tomorrow’s forecast is nice. I think I’ll wait until tomorrow morning to walk: no rain, temperature 50 degrees and wind ESE only 4 MPH. Perfect!

As I clicked back to the homepage, my eyes caught an icon I hadn’t noticed before. The new icon is all red and it reads “COVID-19” with a solid red image that represents the virus. I clicked it and came to a page associated with my zip code.

When I opened to the COVID-19 page it displayed confirmed cases and deaths associated with the coronavirus in Nassau County and the percentage increase of deaths since last week. Like the weather, it indicates the date and time of day for the report.

And then just below the Nassau County information, it provides the confirmed cases and deaths in all of New York State.

It took my breath away to see this little red icon on the Weather Channel. After all, checking the weather has always provided me with a momentary respite, a chance to look forward to a nice day or to prepare for a crummy one.

But the little red icon put a lump in my throat.

We are encouraged on social media every day with uplifting memes and inspirational quotations to count our blessings. We are advised to use telecommunications to interact with family, friends and colleagues.

Depending on the circumstance, technology enables us to reach out to students, clients, doctors, patients and customers.

At the same time, anxiety and fear is a constant companion. For some, more so than others. Particularly if you have loved ones with pre-existing health-compromising conditions or if you don’t know how you are going to pay the bills if this lasts much longer.

We can distract ourselves only so long. And, then we check the weather.

Andrew Malekoff is the executive director of North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, the leading children’s mental health agency on Long Island. The Guidance Center is seeing new and existing clients via telephone and video during the COVID-19 crisis. To make an appointment, call (516) 626-1971. Visit www.northshorechildguidance.org for more information.

#CORONATHERAPY – How to Manage Our Own Fears and Anxieties During This Pandemic

#CORONATHERAPY – How to Manage Our Own Fears and Anxieties During This Pandemic

By Jennifer Pearlman, LMHC at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center

I keep waiting for this to end so I can tell my family and friends about this crazy, unrealistic movie I watched about the entire world shutting down over a contagious virus called COVID-19. And then I must remind myself that this is not a movie, it is the current reality of the entire world.

Everyone is now in a scramble, trying to adjust to the “new normal.” We are all being severely impacted by this pandemic in very real, serious ways. Loss of life, loss of jobs, loss of stability and security, loss of education, loss of business, loss of human contact and socialization and loss of control. That is a lot of loss.

While many people are making sure to take care of their physical needs (washing their hands, stocking up on food, social distancing, etc.), we need to take care of our emotional needs as well. We are in completely unchartered territory and, in a matter of days, we have gone into a state of complete uncertainty, fear and unpredictability. There is an understandable and palpable increase in people’s feelings of anxiety and depression.

The question is, how do we make sure to address our emotional needs during this crisis? Often, we go into “autopilot” mode and focus on taking care of everyone else’s needs, but we manage to let our own needs fall to the wayside. As therapists, we feel this need to take care of everyone else’s anxiety and panic, to help others through this crisis. We are wired to help people.

The anxiety and panic that people are experiencing is so real and so palpable. We have no idea how things will play out. Many of our clients are reaching out for help. Many parents are at a loss as to what to tell their children, or how to help their kids when their own anxiety levels are through the roof.

As therapists, it is imperative that we remember that in order to be able to take care of others, we must take care of ourselves as well. I’ve had so many fellow therapists reach out asking how they are supposed to help their clients through this crisis, when they themselves are falling apart and barely functioning. I am going to give a couple of suggestions that I have personally found extremely helpful.

1. NORMALIZE YOUR OWN ANXIETY: You are not superhuman and it is COMPLETELY NORMAL to be feeling a tremendous amount of anxiety over the change, uncertainty and fear surrounding this new pandemic. Trying to “get over it” or minimizing your anxiety is only going to make it worse. Think of what you would tell your clients. Just as you would validate your clients’ anxieties surrounding what is going on, make sure you are validating your own anxiety as well.

2. IDENTIFY TRIGGERS AND LIMIT THEM AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE: The news media and social media are two of the biggest triggers that have been raising people’s anxiety, panic and hysteria. While it is important to stay up to date and know what is going on (mandatory quarantines, shutdowns, school closures and more) it is not necessary to incessantly check every single update and every new confirmed case of the Coronavirus. When the news puts up videos of empty shelves in grocery stores, it leads people to a complete state of panic where they feel the need to rush out and stock up on inordinate amounts of food. There is a lot of misinformation out there, especially being posted on social media. If you are easily triggered by these things, please do yourself a favor and limit or take a break from it for as long as you need. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that certain things are just not working for us. In fact, it can be extremely empowering and brave. Watching all these reports and seeing the barrage of messages posted on social media can be very detrimental to our mental health, and it is not productive.

3. SELF-CARE: I cannot stress this enough. Self-care is like oxygen during a time like this. We need it to survive. You may have to get a little bit creative in thinking about how to go about that (with everyone home and in tight quarters), but there are plenty of things to do that don’t involve going out to the spa and getting a massage. You can read for 30 minutes with a hot chocolate and your feet up on your couch; you can go run around the block for a jog; you can take a bubble bath and listen to relaxing music; you can Facetime a friend and just talk; you can watch your favorite movie…. Figure out what works for you and make sure to set aside some time to do it, daily!

4. FOCUS ON THE THINGS THAT ARE IN YOUR CONTROL: While there are many things that are completely out of our control, which has contributed to the fear a lot of us are feeling, there are still things that are very much in our control, and it is extremely helpful to put our energy and focus on that. We can control how much time we spend reading the news and going on social media; how we choose to use our time; how we take care of ourselves and our families; our perspective; and our attitude and behavior.

5. RADICAL ACCEPTANCE: ACCEPTING THE THINGS THAT WE CANNOT CHANGE. While difficult to achieve, this can be very liberating. We spend so much time and energy on things that are way beyond our control, which generally only increases our feelings of fear, anger and sadness. By fully accepting the way things are, we are not discounting our feelings around what is going on; we are simply acknowledging that it is beyond our control.

6. THERE IS NO ONE WAY TO GRIEVE: A close friend of mine suddenly and tragically lost a very close relative of hers. I remember going over there that night and, while there wasn’t much I could say other than just hug her and cry with her, I remember the one thing I told her family. There is no one way to grieve. Everyone has different responses to trauma and grief, and we need to accept where people are in the process. The same is true for what is going on now. There is no one way to handle a crisis. Everyone needs to figure out what works for them, and we need to be tolerant and accept people’s responses, even when they vary greatly from ours. Some people will need to talk about it a lot, while others prefer not to. Some will choose to self-quarantine out of precaution, others will choose not to. There is no one right way. Remember that. Don’t impose your opinions and beliefs on others, just be there to support each other through this really hard time. We are all in this together.

7. BE PREPARED, NOT PANICKED: There is a big difference between taking precautions and being prepared and being panicked. Panicked is going out and buying 12 years’ worth of toilet paper. Being prepared is having enough supplies in the house in case there is a mandatory lockdown or quarantine for 14 days. The panic and mass hysteria are what leads to people feeling the need to hoard items and food so there is a complete shortage of certain supplies, further increasing the panic and hysteria. Take precautions. Prepare but try not to panic. 

8. STRUCTURE: Even if you are in quarantine, it can be extremely helpful to add structure to your day. Wake up, get dressed, take a walk outside, do an exercise video, get work done on the computer, make lunch….create a routine for yourself that works and try to stick to it as much as you possibly can. 

9. SOCIAL DISTANCING DOESN’T MEAN SOCIAL ISOLATION: Just because we need to physically distance ourselves from others doesn’t mean we need to isolate. Pick up the phone and reach out to family and friends. FaceTime those who are close to you. It can be extremely lonely to be at home and not be able to go out. Make sure to reach out and find other ways to connect to people. 

10. TAKE ONE DAY AT A TIME: Don’t start thinking eight months down the road and catastrophizing that your kids are never going back to school. Focus on putting one foot in front of another and taking one day at a time. You just need to get through today, and you will worry about tomorrow tomorrow. Mindfulness and meditation can be a really helpful way to train yourself to stay focused on the present moment. There are many apps available that can help you with this.

11. REACH OUT FOR HELP IF YOU NEED: There is no shame in acknowledging you need help. Almost all therapists and agencies are now offering Telehealth, so you don’t need to leave your home to get the support. 

While these are extremely trying and scary times for everyone, this is going to pass. It may take some time, but we have survived pandemics in the past and we will survive this one as well. We are all in this together. Sending lots of love and support everyone’s way.

Saluting our Founding Women!

Saluting our Founding Women!

Back in the early 1950s, when the suburbs on Long Island were rapidly expanding, very few mental health services were available, especially for children. In many families, issues such as depression and anxiety weren’t spoken about openly. In fact, they were considered shameful.

But not everyone was ignoring the reality that young people needed help. 

The vast majority of the founders of North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center were women. In this National Women’s History Month, we’d like to celebrate some of those who were pioneers in recognizing the need for an agency such as ours on Long Island and turning the dream into a reality.

In 1952, Annabelle Bagdon and Beatrice Cohart began a research project looking at other guidance centers around the country and trying to identify possible financial backers for the creation of a guidance center here in Nassau County.

One year later Ruth Blank, who became the first president, attended a meeting that’s come to be known as the historic start of the “North Shore Child Guidance Association.”

With the help of others, these women reached out to the community to teach them about the agency in a report called “A Year of Work is Over.” The report went far in educating the community about the need for mental health services in the new suburban climate, fighting against the stereotype that mental health problems were confined only to the underprivileged or poor.

Fundraising was a difficult task, but this group of (mostly) women were determined. By 1956, they managed to raise $20,000 – worth a lot more in 1956 than today. Mae Addelson, who would later serve as president, led the membership drive.

On March 6, 1956, the Guidance Center opened on a part-time basis as the first independent community-supported mental health clinic in Nassau County, headquartered in Great Neck.

Bea Cohart was instrumental in the launch of the Guidance Center’s newsletter, called Guidelines, which still exists to this day.

Another leader was Doris Salzberg, a board member who served as the chairperson of the Art Festival, which began in 1956. Joan Salzman learned of the Guidance Center through this festival, and later went on to become president of the board.

Ruth Blank and Laura Kaplan are two other early Guidance Center women of distinction, starting the Community Conference, mental health workshops that were popular for more than 25 years.

Another hero: Nancy Marks, a devoted donor who brought famed anthropologist Margaret Mead to speak at an overflow crowd at the Great Neck South Junior High School in 1970.

In 1974, the Guidance Center named Marion S. Levine as its director. She served in this role through 2006, helping the Guidance Center become the preeminent children’s mental health organization on Long Island.

Talking with your Kids About Coronavirus

Talking with your Kids About Coronavirus

It’s all over the news and social media. The coronavirus—in particular, COVID19—has people of all ages understandably concerned. When a director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells the public to be prepared for a “significant disruption” of their routines, it certainly raises red flags.

But how do we make sure our children aren’t overwhelmed by fear of this disease?

First, some good news to help ease your mind: So far, it appears that the virus produces mild symptoms in children. It has been serious (and yes, even deadly), but people who have died have had significant underlying health issues. 

Of course, we can’t be certain what will unfold as the virus continues to spread globally. With so much still unknown, it’s hard not to let the worry train go off the rails.

Whether you are barely concerned at all, extremely worried or somewhere in between, it’s crucial that you remain calm so that you don’t burden your children with unnecessary angst.

“As a parent, you need to be very careful not to put your fears and anxieties onto your child,” says Dr. Sue Cohen, Director of Early Childhood and Psychological Services at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center. “Even if you’re feeling very anxious, you don’t want to catastrophize.”

What you choose to tell your child depends in part on their age. “Give them information in amounts they can handle according to their developmental level,” says Dr. Cohen. “There’s no need to bombard them with the whole CDC report. They need bits of information that are easily understandable.” 

It’s important to clarify any misconceptions they may have, she adds. “Ask your kids what they have heard about the virus, so you’ll understand where their fears are coming from. As is the case with any situation, let them know you are available to speak to them about any concerns they might have.”

Tips on Avoiding Viruses

Finally, share with them the best hygienic practices to prevent them from catching the virus, as well as a cold or any type of respiratory illness (see below). Says Dr. Cohen, “Be their role model when it comes to handwashing and other preventive measures.”

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.

Sources:

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/coronavirus.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention-treatment.html

A Loving Way to Discuss Weight

A Loving Way to Discuss Weight

Are you concerned that your adolescent may be prone to health problems as a result of being significantly overweight?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s. 

Today, nearly 1 in 5 school age U.S. children and young people (6 to 19 years) is considered obese. When you factor in those who are considered overweight but not yet obese, the figure rises to 31%.

Why the dramatic increase? Behavior and habits are the most likely culprits. According to Dr. Sue Cohen, Director of Early Childhood and Psychological Services at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, technology plays a big role.

“Many families have become sedentary, with TV, computers and videogames as the culprits,” she says. “And it’s not just the kids; parents, too, are often modeling these behaviors.”

Of course, shaming a child for being overweight is never appropriate. From a very early age, parents should nurture a positive body image with their kids, focusing on their bodies as the miracles they are! 

But if your teen’s weight has become a health concern, you can address it in a loving, non-critical way. 

Dr. Cohen recommends approaching the issue as a family topic rather than focusing on an individual child. “The message should be that we all need to eat healthier and we can all start a fitness program as a family,” she says. “You don’t want to make your child feel badly about themselves, so focusing on healthy eating and activity rather than appearance is extremely important.”

Here are some things to keep in mind when broaching the subject of weight with your children, from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

Encourage open dialogue. Go ahead and talk with your children about weight and encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings about body image whenever they arise. When children discuss feelings about weight with you, be sure to listen and acknowledge that the feelings are real. If you have had similar experiences, it may help to share them. Explain that people come in all different shapes and sizes and you love your child no matter what.

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

Take action. Children learn fast, and they learn best by example. Teach children habits that will help keep them healthy for life. In general, if your child is elementary age or younger and you have some weight concerns, don’t talk about it; just start making lifestyle changes as a family. The best thing you can do is make it easy for kids to eat smart and move often. Serve regular, balanced family meals and snacks. Limit the time your child spends watching television or playing video games. Look for ways to spend fun, active time together.

Avoid the blame game. Never yell, scream, bribe, threaten or punish children about weight, food or physical activity. If you turn these issues into parent-child battlegrounds, the results can be harmful. Shame, blame and anger are setups for failure. The worse children feel about their weight, the more likely they are to overeat or develop an eating disorder.

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

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

Finding Healthy Foods

Are you among the Long Islanders whose location and/or financial issues make it difficult to access healthy, fresh foods? Many soup kitchens and food pantries don’t have a large supply of fresh groceries, but Community Solidarity shares nutritious food to those in need, with 50% of that being fresh produce. To find out more, visit communitysolidarity.org.

Sources:

www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/index.htm

www.eatright.org/health/weight-loss/overweight-and-obesity/how-to-talk-to-kids-about-weight-and-obesity

www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/facts.htm

www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/

When Winter Brings Deeper Blues

When Winter Brings Deeper Blues

Although we’ve had a relatively warm and snow-free winter thus far on Long Island, that doesn’t mean that those who experience SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, have escaped the depressive symptoms that accompany this mood disorder.

Starting as early as October or November, people with SAD—about six percent of the U.S. population, primarily in northern regions—begin to experience depression that is related to the lack of sunlight, less time outdoors and cold temperatures. More than simply the “winter blues,” this condition is characterized by feelings of sadness and hopelessness nearly every day. People with SAD are unable to enjoy the activities that typically make them happy; they have difficulty concentrating and are often tired and/or agitated. 

Another 14 percent suffers from a lesser form of SAD, whose symptoms include low energy, weight gain, craving carbohydrates and social withdrawal.

Some other statistics: Females are about four times more likely to develop SAD than their male counterparts. People with a history of depression are more prone to experiencing symptoms of SAD.

Here are some strategies to get you through the winter, whether you experience full-blown SAD or the milder winter blues:

  • Get as much direct exposure to sunlight as possible.
  • Since being out in the sun can be difficult this time of year, either due to cold temperatures or long workdays inside, consider purchasing artificial “sunbox” lights. Their special fluorescent tubes mimic the sun’s beneficial rays (plain lights don’t have the same effect). 
  • Keep or start an exercise routine. If it’s not too cold out and it’s a sunny day, try to walk outside to reap the benefits of being in natural sunshine—but even if you work out indoors, it will have a positive impact on your mood.
  • Turn up the heat (between 64 and 70 degrees) and drink hot beverages.
  • Eat healthy foods, with a focus on fruits and vegetables. That’s good advice any time of year, but especially important in winter when your cravings for sugar and carbohydrates tend to increase.
  • Don’t give in to the urge to isolate. Seeing friends and attending social functions are crucial to putting a damper on the blues.
  • Keep active by engaging your creative side, whether it be taking up a new hobby or reintroducing a former favorite pastime. Take advantage of classes at your adult education center or library. Not only will your spirits pick up, but you may make some new social connections.
  • Take up meditation and other mindfulness-based practices. You can find literally thousands of guided meditations on a free app called Insight Timer.

Children and teens are not immune to depression that comes during the fall and winter months, although it more commonly starts in young adulthood. If your child is experiencing depression that impacts their ability to function, whatever the season, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional. To contact North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, call (516) 626-1971.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2686645/

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml

https://www.webmd.com/depression/features/beating-winters-woes#1

https://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/dealing-with-winter-blues-sad.aspx

Love Your Library

Love Your Library

Long Islanders are very lucky to have one of the best public library systems in the country. In Nassau County alone, there are 54 libraries! 

When you think of libraries, likely the first thing that comes to mind is (you guessed it) books—and being able to peruse thousands upon thousands of books at your library or at home is certainly a wonderful thing! But libraries offer a wide variety of services, some of which might surprise you.

Libraries are a real treasure for parents, children and teens. Most have preschool story times that foster early literacy, along with music classes and play time. They also have quiet study areas where students can do their schoolwork or meet up with their tutor (who may be a volunteer provided by the library). Many have book clubs for people of all ages, a great way to encourage love of reading and to meet new friends.

Adults and youngsters can enjoy a bunch of entertainment options, as many libraries host movies and music/theater performances. Art exhibits are another popular offering, which gives local artists a chance to exhibit their work. Arts and crafts classes are another popular option.

Libraries are great places to hear experts and take classes on a huge range of topics: preparing wills, tax help, learning Mah Jong, travel tips, writing your memoir, line dancing, yoga, defensive driving, job fairs, computer savvy, saving for college—the list is endless. 

These days, most if not all libraries offer computer and internet access, which opens up a world of information to those who may not have access at home, or who may prefer to spend some time out of their house and in the warm embrace of their local library.

Librarians can help you find reference materials (whether paper or electronic) on a host of subjects, from career information to car repair to medical resources to town history—just ask and you will likely be given a great launching pad for your search into numerous interests. 

If you love spending time at the library, there are many volunteer opportunities, such as reading to little ones, tutoring, helping new citizens learn English and much more.

This is National Library Lover’s Month, but any time of year is a perfect time to make a trip to your local library!

Love Learning?

Why not share that love by volunteering with the Guidance Center’s tutoring program? Please contact Lauren McGowan at (516) 626-1971, ext. 320, lmcgowan@northshorechildguidance.org.