It’s officially summer!! How do you deal with going from a structured schedule to unstructured during the summer months? How do you handle the “I’m bored” comments from your kids? And setting a standard for rest and good sleep schedules? Here are some of our Wise Insights into the transition for kids and teens from school to summer.

Amy Fortney Parks PhDR, LPC: In some families, kids have been out of school for over a month, and for others, it has been a mere few days! Regardless of how long (or short) your summer is, the transition from the structure of a 7:45 – 2:45 school day, with lunch at 10:00 AM – really, that is called BRUNCH, people, CRAZY-TOWN – to the lazy, pool-filled days of summer can be tough on all of us. We all need down time, and I am a big advocate for letting your family find a rhythm that works for you during the summer months.

Over the many years that I have worked with families, one insight that I have had regarding transitions is to take the time to “find the fences”. When schedules change, routines are interrupted or all heck breaks loose at your house, take the time to find the fences again – that means look around, and talk to one another, about expectations and ideas. What might sound fun and easy for you, may be totally anxiety producing for your sensitive teen. A trip to the pool may seem like just what has been missing from your cold, dry winter, but for your 8-year-old the idea of a loud, splashing pool may make her want to head to the snow-covered hills. So this summer, have some insight into what feels good for everyone – and how everyone is a little bit different – find the fences for your family. And don’t forget to Be WISE!

Lynlee Tanner Stapleton, PhD – Evaluator for The Wise Family: Sometimes I hear from parents eager to play “catch up” over the summer – to fit in that special reading course, to master that next level math skill, or even to get lots of extra violin or batting practice. While some kids with very specific needs must have extra summer support to just keep up, don’t forget about the value of taking a breath and a step back. Insights from developmental science consistently show the invaluable role that play and unstructured time with family and peers have on a host of skills and domains of well-being. So give your kids (and yourself!) a bit of a break, and you just might find everyone comes out ahead in the end!

Kasey CainResident in counseling – Therapist for The Wise Family: As a parent, one of my least favorite things to hear is “I’m bored.” It evokes an angry or annoyed response because I know that I have provided toys and games galore for my children. They have everything they need (and then some) so why should they be bored? Luckily, through my studies and work as a school counselor and resident in counseling, I have gained some insight on the topic. British psychotherapist and essayist Adam Phillips wrote, “the capacity to be bored can be a developmental achievement for the child.” If we, as the adults, fill up all of our child’s time with activities and events we are actually doing them a disservice. They need to learn how to fill their own time either with self-selected activities or even just their thoughts. Being bored is really just a state of mind. This summer, let your kids practice the art of being bored.

Amanda Beyland, LCSW – Therapist for The Wise Family: Most of the kids I know have been looking forward to summer for months and it’s finally here but now what?! Summer is a big transition for both kids and parents that may seem overwhelming. While there is certainly love for the freedom summer gives, it can seem like a daunting task to plan each day. Here’s some insight– don’t worry about always keeping kids busy! Of course, it’s always fun to go on some adventures, take trips, and do things there just isn’t time for during the school year but it’s fine to have days with nothing planned. This allows kids time to do their own things whether it’s reading a book, playing outside with the neighbors, or simply coloring. You should always be prepared to be spontaneous but you can still stick to a routine – even if it needs to be revamped on some days. Most importantly, relax and have fun with your family!

Dominique AdkinsEdD – Therapist for The Wise Family: Summertime teens it is not too late to create your ideal summer. Here are four insights to help customize your summer experience.

– As tempting as it might be, avoid staying awake all night and sleeping the day away. Create a sleep routine that allows you to sleep in and not miss out on your summertime fun.
– Secondly, it can be hard to coordinate hanging out with friends because of travel plans or conflicting schedules. Don’t take it personal! Plan ahead and find ways to reconnect throughout the summer whether it is in person or by phone or by FaceTime or through letters.
– Explore part time summer job opportunities. It can be a rewarding experience that puts money in your pocket and looks good on your college resume!
– Finally, remember this time away from the pressures of school is valuable and essential to recharge for the next school year. Try not to over plan. Let summer takes its natural course. You will have busy and quiet days. The most important thing is to be mindful and enjoy each summertime moment!

Be Wise!

We are honored and humbled to learn that the City of Alexandria, Virginia and their Children, Youth and Families Collaborative Commission has awarded Amy Fortney Parks, our practice owner, along with fellow champions Susan Britton, Cheryl Robinson, Lyndsey Swanson, Lynn Thomas, and Olga Wright, with their first ever Champions of Children Award!

On behalf of all of the children and families that have been, and will be, a part of The Wise Family, and all of the families that we support around the world, THANK YOU!
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The Children, Youth and Families Collaborative Commission honors individuals who have been instrumental in implementing the strategies of the Children and Youth Master Plan (CYMP). The Champions of Children Awards celebrate the unsung heroes in our community whose tireless efforts advance the CYMP goals.

The Wise Family team constantly strives to improve the well-being of children and families through fostering partnerships by keeping health and safety, academic success and career readiness, social connection, emotional security and cultural competence in our core values and top-of-mind during therapy sessions.

At the beginning of 2017, Amy never conceived of this honor in her wildest dreams! We released this to the press, and you are a part of the family, so we wanted to share the good news with you first! It is truly a joy for Amy, and a privilege, to receive recognition for her efforts.

Until next week, Be Wise!

Recently, we mentioned that, at The Wise Family, we often use a specialized approach to our work, and the teaching that we do around communication. We are so excited to share it with you that we want to give you the whole thing right now!

But, like anything we do as a family, it is often easier to take things one step at a time. So, we are going to give you the approach, but only focus on one part of it at a time.

♪You put your left hand in, you put your left hand out, you put your left hand in…♪

(Below photo credit – @sleepytimecreations)

Just spontaneously thought of that song! It works, right?

The approach we use actually focuses on four steps – Wonder, Insight, Strategy, and Expectation. Many people ask us why the first step isn’t Wisdom, or Wise – like our name – and we explain that it is a lot to expect of folks to have wisdom before they have even figured out what the heck is going on!

So the “W” stands for Wonder. As in Wonderful – Wonderment – Wonder Woman (Ok, that’s two words, but did you see the movie yet? Fantastic!).

Wonder means to desire or be curious to know something.

And having a sense of wonder means —

“To experience a feeling, a surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.”

What a wonderful word ‘WONDER’ is. So when we approach a problem that a child or parent shares with us, this is how we begin the process of thinking about it. We wonder.

A Mom shared with us, via the WISE FAMILIES Facebook page that, earlier in the week her daughter had a bad tantrum. This is what she said,

“My daughter had a bad tantrum today. I picked her up from school. She asked someone for a playdate, and they said no, but maybe tomorrow. So I suggested we go shopping for shoes. So we went, and both tried on shoes, which was okay for a while. Then she wanted to leave, and she put the shoes I was about try on back in the box, and started pulling me one way when I wanted to walk the other way. I tried reasoning with her at her eye level and suggested we play follow the leader, which didn’t work. She does this thing where she drops to the floor on her knees, and then says, “You’re mean!” Like it was my fault when she’s the one that did it to herself. So I agreed to leave because it was embarrassing and impossible to keep shopping with her acting like that. It took a couple minutes to get in the carseat, and we drove home. Then she started having a full blown tantrum in the carseat in the garage! I was afraid she’d kick me with her shoes on, so I unbuckled her, carried her in the house and then she takes her tantrum out on me! She finally calmed down, but how could I possibly have avoided, or prevented this from happening in the first place?”

Sound at all familiar? What might have happened if Mom had WONDERED about how her daughter felt after the friend couldn’t have a play date? What might have happened if, instead of trying to solve the “problem” right away – if a problem even existed in the first place – she had taken a few moments to WONDER?

I WONDER?

See how just the act of taking the time to WONDER opens up the space to discover something “beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable”?

Practice WONDERING a lot this week! Make the statement, “I WONDER…” as often as possible, and see what spaces open up for you and for your family.

We will be WONDERING how it is going for you, and if you want to share, HIT REPLY on this email and let us know!

We are WAITING – ok, that’s enough W for one day! Happy Wednesday! Ha Ha!

Be Wise!

At The Wise Family, we spend a lot of time talking about talking. We use a specialized approach to our work, and the teaching that we do around communication called – W.I.S.E. Words. We’re going to write more next week about the W.I.S.E. approach, and for now we want to share our TEAM insights and strategies (hint hint – that’s the “I” and “S” in W.I.S.E.) into how to talk to kids and teens about mental health, and about the importance of talking with someone else when you need support! Here’s what our super-wise clinicians have to say –

 

 

Dr. Lynlee Tanner Stapleton – Evaluator for The Wise Family: “Mental health” sounds like such an adult topic, but it actually starts in infancy! No, a 3-month-old can’t verbalize that they often feel sad or scared, or that they feel so frustrated about not reaching that shiny toy that they just want to scream. But from the earliest of ages, we all experience emotions, and we learn how to manage them from cues that other people we know and trust give us. Giving voice to those feelings by calmly labeling what you see shows kids that you understand what they’re going through, that you’re there for them even when they feel bad, and that using language can actually make difficult emotions easier to manage. Making feelings just one more thing that you can talk about in your family (even before they can actually talk!) sets the stage for a healthier and more resilient future.

Kasey Cain – Therapist for The Wise Family: In my work with schools, children, and families, I have come across a common misconception that talking about mental health challenges makes them worse.  This is actually the opposite of what happens.  The more we can talk about topics that appear “taboo” and make them non-threatening, the more confidently we will be able to address these challenges.  Mental health challenges are not something to be ashamed of.  Instead, they can be acknowledged, explored, and supported in a pro-active manner.

Amanda Beyland – Therapist for The Wise Family: There is such a stigma attached with mental health that it’s often difficult to talk about and when there are children involved it seems to get even harder. Many parents are apprehensive talking about their child’s mental health because they may be concerned they are admitting that something is wrong. There is also the fear they have made a mistake somewhere along the road or that it reflects on their parenting. These common misinterpretations often steer parents away from seeking support for their children. Talking about your child’s mental health is a good thing and a starting place to allow the child to learn about and feel comfortable with the challenges they may be having.

Dr. Dominique Adkins – Therapist for The Wise Family: In my work with families, adolescents, and young adults there is an inherent stigma and fear associated with mental illness.  Adolescents and young adults often have a self-image that they have to maintain.  Through continued media exposure and education, adolescents and young adults find the courage and strength to share about their experience with mental illness.  The individuals that open up to others have found the experience to be healing and empowering.   My clients have shared they feel closer with those they shared with and learned that mental illness often has touched those close to them which normalizes their experiences and allows for an unexpected support.

 

Until next week, Be Wise!

 

Continuing with this month’s theme of mental health awareness, let’s talk a little more about anxiety. Specifically, anxiety in teens.

A lot of teens present in therapy and in the school setting with anxiety and worry. Part of that comes from perspective. Teens think everyone is watching them all the time, and also it comes from just an inability, really, to cope with anxiety and stress. They haven’t been able to normalize stress like adults are able to, so I think helping kids figure out ways to relax and cope, meditate, and take time to breathe through situations helps. It certainly helps the brain, but also may show if they need professional help. I think it’s absolutely the perfect time to help make the experience of therapy or maybe even working with a psychiatrist, an experience that feels comfortable and is something that they’re going to not feel self conscious about or that something is wrong with them. Just really normalizing that experience, I think, is part of it too.

Anxiety is really tricky. Oftentimes when a teen is anxious, their parents are probably a little anxious too. That’s understandable. So helping your anxious teen involves figuring out what’s going on underneath their experience, but also helping them figure out ways to cope.

So you’re figuring out what the stressors are and trying to meditate them a little bit, whether they’re school or peers, really problem solving through that. But also helping kids figure out ‘how do I calm down? How do I de-stress?’ So it might be meditation. It might be having alone time or just downtime with the family. It might be exercising or being involved in a sport. It might even be just eating better and taking better care of themselves that might lessen the anxiety but all of those things really affect the brain and kids can’t function when they are anxious and worried.

 

So any way you can help your teen figure out how to minimize anxiety is really good. If you feel like your teen needs support, then you should really find some support, either in a professional or in a religious setting or whatever, so that they can feel like they have lots of resources.

Until next week, Be Wise!

 

Parents know being a teenager can be stressful and anxiety-provoking. There is a barrage of tests, social pressures, and people constantly nagging teens about their future. It’s no wonder one in eight adolescents have an anxiety disorder.

If your teen is feeling stressed out, worried, and nervous about various aspects of life, they’re not alone. Anxiety is a feeling everyone experiences.

Chronic anxiety, however, whether it be seasonal, general, social, or specific phobia-related, is something that should be addressed. When anxiety begins to take a toll on day-to-day life and starts affecting social interactions and relationships, your teen could be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
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Below are some steps your teen can take to get chronic anxiety or an anxiety disorder under control.
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​​​​Get Enough Sleep!​​

​​​Sleep and anxiety are part of a pretty vicious cycle; anyone with anxiety knows this all too well. High levels of anxiety can disrupt sleeping patterns. In turn, poor sleep is a major cause of chronic anxiety.
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Getting a good amount of uninterrupted sleep is crucial for coping with anxiety. Begin by setting regular bedtimes and wake-up times. Teens need to teach their bodies to “turn off and turn back on” at set times. A strict schedule is key.

​​​​​​​Also, they must make changes to bedroom activity if they’re having trouble sleeping. The bedroom should be for sleeping and sleeping only. They shouldn’t watch TV, play video games, or do homework in bed. They shouldn’t check Facebook or Instagram when going to bed either. Their brains needs to know that when the head hits the pillow, it’s time for sleep time and nothing else.

Increase Levels of Physical Activity:

​​​​​​​Increasing levels of physical activity can help teens manage how they deal with anxiety. They will be more balanced and able to prevent anxiety from disrupting their decision-making.
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Exercise has numerous positive benefits on the brain, sleep, and overall wellbeing. Ask your teen to attempt to increase physical activity if they’re dealing with a lot of anxiety. If some of this activity can be social in nature — like team sports, working out with a friend, or joining a yoga or running club — all the better.

Define Specific Anxiety Triggers and Take Small Steps to Combat Them: 

​​​​​​​Being dismissive or overly general about anxiety, and what causes it, prevents teens from beginning the process of overcoming it. Anxiety is real, and it won’t go away if they try to ignore it.
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Ask them to write it all down, to grab a pen and paper (yes, old school) and make a list of specific things that are causing the anxiety. They can write down how these things make them feel both mentally and physically. Then they can rate their anxiety triggers in terms of how much they affect them. Then write down plans to begin to combat those specific sources of anxiety.

​​​​​​​Try to be specific. Here’s an example: “Falling behind in math class is stressing me out. This makes me unable to focus on the work at hand, which only leads to more anxiety. I plan on staying after school to work on math as well as looking into getting a tutor to help.”

​​​​​​​Anxiety is sometimes simply a reaction to life’s stressors. If your teen commonly experiences anxiety, and it often overwhelms their ability to think reasonably about issues, know that these tips can help manage their anxiety. Sometimes, however, the help of a licensed therapist is required to completely alleviate it. With some work, they can reduce anxiety levels to well within the norm for a teenager.
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There can also be a great deal of stress for parents dealing with anxious teens. It’s important to remember to take care of your mental health as well!

Excerpted from WellnessVoyager.com by Noah Smith

Until next week, Be Wise!

 

REGISTER TODAY BEFORE SPACE FILLS UP!

Links to our registration pages are included below.

Have any questions? Please reach out to info@thewisefamily.com.

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Confidence Club: Social Skills Group for Kids (1st – 3rd Grade)

A support group designed for rising 1st – 3rd graders with a focus on how to manage anger and resolve conflict at home and at school led by our therapist, Amanda Beyland. Kids will learn how to deal with social stress and cope with anxious feelings that may be triggered in a stressful situation. Your child will also learn how to create healthy friendships, build self-confidence in social situations and identify their unique anxiety and anger triggers while building skills to manage all of their feelings in an effective way.

The Confidence Club is a six week group that will begin meeting once a week starting on May 11th. The group will meet on Thursdays and will last from 3:45pm – 5:00pm.

REGISTER for Confidence Club HERE!

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WISE Teen Talk: An Empowering Support Group For Teen Girls

Teen Talk is a support and process group for high school girls led by our therapist, Dr. Dominique Adkins. The purpose of this group is to offer teens support and guidance while they navigate difficult challenges in the world around them. This group provides teens with a safe and comfortable atmosphere to openly discuss the struggles they face, without fear of judgement, criticism or rejection. This group tackles difficult topics ranging from self-worth to conflict resolution and everything in between.

Teen Talk is a six week group that will begin meeting once a week starting on May 11th. The group will meet on Thursdays and will last from 6:00pm – 7:15pm.

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Space is limited for both groups! Registration is now open! Any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out! We look forward to helping your child or teen build their confidence.
Until next week, Be Wise!

Confidence — ​That tricky life skill that is built over time and with experience. The belief in one’s ability to succeed is an essential contributor to success for youngsters and for adults! Too much confidence can convey a cocky persona… and too little confidence prevents one from seizing opportunities. Maintaining a healthy balance of confidence is key to life and future successes.

Good social skills are the key to unlocking your child’s full potential… at school, at home and with friends.

Do you feel your child or teen lacks confidence in making friends and managing anger? Or are you a parent of a teenage daughter looking for additional support for your teen? The Wise Family has some exciting news! We are pleased to offer two 6-week social skills groups, led by our experienced therapists, Amanda Beyland and Dominique Adkins, who will guide kids and teens through hands-on skill building activities to boost confidence, improve self-control, manage anxious feelings, and enhance social skills.

Want to know more? Here’s more information on what to expect in each group:

 

Confidence Club: Social Skills Group for Kids (1st – 3rd Grade)

A support group designed for rising 1st – 3rd graders with a focus on how to manage anger and resolve conflict at home and at school. Kids will learn how to deal with social stress and cope with anxious feelings that may be triggered in a stressful situation. Your child will also learn how to create healthy friendships, build self-confidence in social situations and identify their unique anxiety and anger triggers while building skills to manage all of their feelings in an effective way.

What to expect:
● This group is perfect for kids who have excessive worry, difficulty making or keeping friends, social phobias, shyness, disruptive outbursts, or poor impulse control.

● Our groups are kept small to provide kids with a safe environment and plenty of individual attention to increase confidence and practice skills.

● Parents will get resources to take home to help your child make the most of what they’re learning in this group.

The Confidence Club is a six week group that will begin meeting once a week starting on May 11th. The group will meet on Thursdays and will last from 3:45pm – 5:00pm.

 

WISE Teen Talk: An Empowering Support Group For Teen Girls

Teen Talk is a support and process group for high school girls led by our therapist, Dr. Dominique Adkins. The purpose of this group is to offer teens support and guidance while they navigate difficult challenges in the world around them. This group provides teens with a safe and comfortable atmosphere to openly discuss the struggles they face, without fear of judgement, criticism or rejection. This group tackles difficult topics ranging from self-worth to conflict resolution and everything in between.

Teen Talk is a six week group that will begin meeting once a week starting on May 11th. The group will meet on Thursdays and will last from 6:00pm – 7:15pm.

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Space is limited for both groups! Registration begins soon!! Be on the lookout for more updates from us as we get closer to registration.

 

Until next week, Be Wise!

By Guest Contributor and Wise Family Clinician – Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling

This week we are going to work on calming down and keeping cool!

It is no secret that children have big emotions and often at the worst possible time. Kids seem to be more easily upset by events that seem trivial to the surrounding adults.  For example, check out these hilarious “36 Reasons Why My Kid Is Crying.”

Having these large emotions and reactions is normal and developmentally appropriate in a majority of the cases.  To an adult, the problem often seems relatively small, but we have the advantage of a developed frontal lobe which helps with our emotional regulation. We also have years of experiences and memories to pull from and apply to helping us modulate our responses to overwhelming emotions.

Children are still observing and learning.  For those with social challenges, this process is made even more difficult because the observations, particularly reading social cues, are more challenging.

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To help children learn how to handle these big feelings, we can proactively teach our kids calm-down strategies  Incorporate some of the below suggestions into your activities and routines. Then they will become familiar practices that the child can call upon in moments of distress. It is important to teach these skills proactively, as children will not be available to learning a new skill at the peak of the emotional outburst.

Movement Changes Mood: Movement can help kids calm down quickly. Practicing calming movements and breathing on a regular basis will help a child learn movements they can pull from when trying to calm down.
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–  Yoga cards such as the Yoga Pretzel deck are easy to use and can be turned into a fun game of selecting a pose and practicing.

–  Cosmic Kids Yoga gets kids moving in a fun yet calming way.

–  Mind Yet has quick guided breathing activities that quickly soothe and calm.
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Change in Visual Focus: If movement isn’t possible due to location or it doesn’t seem to be working, try having your child shift their visual attention. Using a calm down sensory bottle can help to shift focus and prompt relaxation.

Reading, Reading, Reading: This tip seems to make it into almost all of our topics.  Why? Because exploring stories with children is so powerful.  You can select books that are specifically about calming down or you can simply pick a favorite story, find a conflict in it, and discuss how the character resolved that conflict.  Then link the identified successful strategies to personal experiences.

When our children are in the midst of an angry outburst, we should avoid phrases like “It’s OK”, “It’s no big deal,” or “Just calm down.” Although we mean well, these statements can make the child feel misunderstood and ashamed of the emotion. These statements can invalidate the child’s experience because, in his or her world, things are clearly not okay, a really big deal, and if it was possible to calm down, he/she would.

(Content written in collaboration with Lipsett Learning Connection.)

About Kasey: 
Kasey is a mom to two fabulous daughters, loves mint chocolate chip ice cream, and loves to dance. She has very acute hearing and can track multiple conversations at once! She loves to read and take naps in her spare time. Kasey’s knowledge of the school system and best practices for teaching and learning, paired with her honed counseling skills, leaves her expertly suited to work with children and their families. She believes in the power of play and that all behavior is communication.

She holds a Masters in Education for School Counseling and a Post Counseling Licensure Certificate in Community Counseling. She is actively pursuing licensure in Virginia as a Licensed Professional Counselor. Her professional journey has included teaching, working at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum education programming department, and community counseling. Since 2006, she has worked in Fairfax County Public schools as an Elementary Professional School Counselor and as a Resource Counselor for School Counseling Services in FCPS’s central office.

 

Until next week, Be Wise!