Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling at The Wise Family:

Creativity is the use of the imagination. It is the ability to go beyond traditional ideas, patterns, relationships, ideas, etc. and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations. Creativity is often described as original, artistic, imaginative, and innovative.

Pablo Picasso once said “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” I believe all people are born with curious natures and the desire to explore and create in some way. As we age, however, we begin to censor ourselves for a variety of reasons – fitting in, adhering to socially accepted norms and/or traditions. Sometimes, the most well-meaning parent can inadvertently squash their child’s creativity development.

I recently gave a talk at a school parent coffee event focused on the over-scheduled, stressed out child. One of the parents said, I have my child in all of these activities (sports, piano, world language) to support her in being well-rounded and creative but she just seems unhappy.” Another parent noted a similar schedule of activities because he did not want his child to ever “be bored.” These children are lucky to have access to such an amazing array of activities. However, they are also always being instructed, monitored, or directed.

One of the most impactful ways to encourage creativity is to allow time and space for unstructured work/play. Children need to learn how to sit with the feeling of “being bored” and move through it, learning how to independently fill their time. Freedom in play allows children to develop self-confidence, social skills, problem-solving, perseverance, and critical thinking. This does not mean you need a fancy playroom or every art supply in the world.

Kids are like mini MacGyvers (I aged myself with that reference, didn’t I?). Give them a toothpick and some tin foil and they will create a field of solar panels or the next space shuttle to galaxies unknown. Keep your boxes from Amazon and who knows what will emerge. Activate your child’s senses by taking a walk outside. Make up stories. The possibilities are endless.


 

Please feel free to share your experiences in how you’ve sparked creativity at home with your child(ren). The power of play is so important.

Until next week, Be Wise!

Photo © Sarayuth Punnasuriyaporn – Dreamstime.com

 

Dominique Adkins, Ed.d., LPC, NCC, ACS:

Carl Rogers (1961) defined creativity as it relates to the human experience as “the emergence in action of a novel relational product, growing out of the uniqueness of the individual.” Relating this definition to encouraging creativity in kids of all ages, creativity must result in discernible products that emerge from the child who is a unique individual (Rogers, 1961).

Creativity also allows for the child or teen to identify their creative strengths which can be translated to all areas of life and increase self-esteem. Gladding (2011) found creativity can be taught (or at least encouraged) and creativity is heterogeneous and does not follow a set pattern.

Creativity has a great deal of benefits for those of all ages. Creativity will improve self-esteem, effective communication skills, insight into patterns of behavior, as well as create new options for coping with problems (Neswald-McCalip, Sather, Strati & Dineen, 2003). Join your children in an exploration and discovery of an approach to creativity while remembering there is no one “right” way.

 

Amanda Beyland, LCSW:  
Creativity opens up a world of possibilities for kids. Time for creative play gives children the opportunity to make up their own game, put on a play, or make an artistic masterpiece. The chance to be creative is everywhere but children need to have the space to explore.

It’s important that there is time in their day to work through the creative process and have the freedom to discover and try new ideas. Allow children to show their creativity in a safe environment where they know that their ideas are great and not something that will be made fun of. Fostering creativity allows children to feel confident enough to take a step out of their comfort zone and try different ways of doing things.

Creativity goes beyond artistic expression and can help children with problem solving, being a more flexible thinker, as well as be more confident with their own self-expression.


Be on the lookout for more insight on sparking creativity in your kids at any age. Our clinician, Kasey Cain, has some great information to share.

Until next week, Be Wise!

 

 

 

Resources: 

Gladding, S. T. (2011). Using Creativity and the Creative Arts in Counseling: An International Approach. Turkish Psychological Counseling & Guidance Journal, 4(35), 1-7.

Newswald‐McCalip, R., Sather, J., Strati, J. V. & Dineen, J. (2003), Exploring the Process of Creative Supervision: Initial Findings Regarding the Regenerative Model.

The Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development, 42, 223-237. doi:10.1002/j.2164-490X.2003.tb00008.x

Rogers, C.R., (1961). On becoming a person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Thought we’d have some fun with you this week after learning all about Executive Functions!

SLANG! Specifically teen slang!

Like – Hey Bae, Don’t be salty cuz you ghosting and being all boujee! Why you curve me, yo? 

I ACTUALLY heard a teen say these EXACT words yesterday! Seriously! And I knew what they meant!  Unless the slang has already changed – which it probably has since yesterday! I was so proud!

Share the below infographic with your teens and see how many are words they actually use, and then let us know in the comments section!

Last week, AWESOME and WISE clinician, Kasey, shared with you some the facts about Executive Function (EF). We often describe EF as “the New IQ” and talk to folks about how EF is cluster of skills accomplished by the prefrontal cortex. You might consider the role of a football coach or an orchestra conductor when you think of the EF – having to manage many functions (or team members or musicians) at one time, and in harmony, to make a goal or a beautiful melody happen. That’s what is developing in your the busy and powerful minds of your kids and teens.

We think the brain is AMAZING. 

So AMAZING, in fact, that Dr. Amy is writing a book about it for parents, teachers and therapists! SHHHHH! She hasn’t announced it yet but we’re telling you early because you are part of the family! More to come on that! Meanwhile, here is what AWESOME and WISE clinicians, Dominique and Amanda, had to say about EF –

 

Dominique Adkins, Ed.d, LPC, NCC, ACS:
When considering the executive functioning skills of teens and young adults it is important to remember the frontal lobe is evolving and will continue to do so until about the age of 25.

The frontal lobe is the part of the brain responsible for decision-making. A teen’s ability to make mature decisions is often overwhelmed by “gut” instincts instead of thoughtful reasoning. Growing technology further enables and increases the occurrence of emotion driven decisions. It important that parents do not shame teens for their tendency to make more emotion driven decisions. The key is to integrate Emotion Mind (feelings) and Rational Mind (thoughts) to achieve a Wise Mind which is a combination of the best parts of emotion & rational mind.

For teens to achieve a Wise Mind, they first must increase awareness of their emotions and thoughts. Mindfulness activities can help teens increase self-awareness and clue into the moments when taking that extra moment can be beneficial.

Taking time to be notice and be aware of their internal process allows teens the opportunity to integrate their emotions and thoughts which increases balanced decision making and organization. Join your teen in working toward a wise minded lifestyle by incorporating a five minute or less mindfulness activity into your family’s weekly routine!


 

Amanda Beyland, LCSW
Executive functioning skills help the brain to get things done in an organized, efficient way and function effectively throughout the day. When children struggle with executive functioning they may have a difficult time starting a task, using their working memory, utilizing flexible thinking, or staying organized. This could mean remembering a big project last minute, taking a long time to get ready for school in the morning, losing homework papers, or becoming overwhelmed with a relatively simple request.

Kids depend on their executive functions to help them with everything from getting through their morning routine to bringing home everything they will need for their homework. Checklists, planners, set routines, and time limits are just a few things that may help to make things more achievable. Try giving children one task at a time or making them a list of chores so they do not become overwhelmed or frustrated when they may miss a step.

Kids can be more organized at school with the use of binders for specific subjects and checklists of what needs to be brought home each day. Practicing mindfulness, or encouraging kids to pause and reflect, may help with focus and problem solving.

 


Until next week, Be Wise!

 

What is Executive Functioning? Executive functions are a set of cognitive processes that are necessary for the cognitive control of behavior: selecting and successfully monitoring behaviors that facilitate the attainment of chosen goals.

See what our guest contributor, Kasey Cain, has to say about EF.

 


Take a moment to think about the skills/behaviors you feel a person needs to exhibit in order to be successful (however you define success). Chances are words like organization, resilience, problem-solving, being a “go-getter”, reflect, self-control, communicating, etc. came to mind. All of this, and more, are part of a person’s executive functioning.Executive Functions (EF) are a set of brain-based abilities that control and regulate other abilities. They are skills and processes people use daily to make plans, keep track of assignments and deadlines, the ability to include past knowledge into work/discussion, evaluate ideas and reflect on work, ask for help, engage in group dynamics, wait their turn, etc. If you hear an educator or therapist using the umbrella term of EF, she is probably talking about one or more of the following:

Inhibition – Ability to stop one’s behavior at the appropriate time, including stopping actions and thoughts.Shift – Ability to move freely from one situation to another and to think flexibly in order to respond appropriately to the situation.

Emotional Control – The ability to modulate emotional responses by bringing rationale thought to bear on feelings.

Initiation – The ability to begin a task or activity and to independently generate ideas, responses, or problem-solving strategies.

Working Memory – The capacity to hold information in mind for the purpose of completing a task.

Planning and Organization – The ability to manage current and future oriented task demands.

Self-Monitoring – The ability to monitor one’s own performance and to measure it against some standard of what is needed or expected.

For some individuals, these abilities develop naturally by watching others and learning from experience. Others may experience challenges in acquiring these skills which may bring academic, social, and/or emotional difficulties.

If you are concerned that your child is struggling with their executive functioning, please know that these skills can be developed. A key role of my work as a school counselor was to support students in developing these skills. I continue to do this work as a resident in counseling with The Wise Family and I am always happy to connect with families and talk to delve deeper into this topic.

 


Until next week, Be Wise!

Check out our two open groups below and see how your child’s social skills can blossom with play.

Register today and receive our FREE print out about Attention Seeking Behaviors.

 

 

Our popular Social Skills Tinker Group starts again this winter on Feb. 23rd!

Our Social Skills Tinker Group is back this winter! This group lets your child learn and practice social skills while involved in highly engaging, meaningful tasks. Hosted by The Wise Family and Lipsett Learning Connection, this group provides hands-on social skills training. This series will target essential skills such as problem solving, navigating how to share materials, and how to ask for help from peers and adults. Space is limited!   

For more info and to register>>>


We are excited to introduce a NEW GROUP! Game Lab starts this winter on Feb. 23rd!

This group lets your child learn and practice social skills while involved in highly engaging, meaningful tasks. Hosted by Lipsett Learning Connection and The Wise Family.

This group is designed to engage children ages 8-10 in social-emotional learning through play. Group members will begin by exploring a variety of games (board games, cards, competitive, cooperative, etc.) and the skills and strategies used during play.  Group members will then work collaboratively to create original games.

This group will support skill development in the following areas:
* Communication
* Problem Solving
* Emotional Regulation

For more info and to register>>>


We have several group options offered throughout the year. Check our Group Therapy page for updates on upcoming registration. Play is a powerful tool for your children to grow and fine tune those social skills.

Until next week, Be Wise!

Does your child show any of these 8 signs of anxiety? Do your kids have worries that make it difficult to make and keep friends?  

 

 

****

If you are concerned about any of the above, check out our two upcoming groups that help improve social skills and ease anxiety, all through play-based learning.

Our popular Social Skills Tinker Group starts again this winter on Feb. 23rd!

Our Social Skills Tinker Group is back this winter! This group lets your child learn and practice social skills while involved in highly engaging, meaningful tasks. Hosted by The Wise Family andLipsett Learning Connection, this group provides hands-on social skills training. This series will target essential skills such as problem solving, navigating how to share materials, and how to ask for help from peers and adults. Space is limited!   

For more info and to register>>>

We are excited to introduce a NEW GROUP! Game Lab starts this winter on Feb. 23rd!

This group lets your child learn and practice social skills while involved in highly engaging, meaningful tasks. Hosted by Lipsett Learning Connection and The Wise Family.

This group is designed to engage children ages 8-10 in social-emotional learning through play. Group members will begin by exploring a variety of games (board games, cards, competitive, cooperative, etc.) and the skills and strategies used during play.  Group members will then work collaboratively to create original games.

This group will support skill development in the following areas:
* Communication
* Problem Solving
* Emotional Regulation

For more info and to register>>>

 

If you have any questions about our upcoming groups, please don’t hesitate to contact us! Call us at 1-844-WISE FAM or email info@thewisefamily.com.

Until next week, Be Wise!

Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

Those who know me, work with me, have ever heard me speak, or have read my previous blogs know that I firmly believe children learn through play. I don’t just think this, but have seen evidence of it in my work as a pre-school teacher, professional school counselor, and resident-in-counseling where I have been able to leverage the interactive dynamics of games to benefit teaching, learning, and overall outcomes for students/clients.

Pretend play, structured play, independent play – all forms of play- foster healthy growth and development physically, cognitively, and socially. When given the space to create and play, children can learn about themselves and those around them. This exploration and experimentation through play is critical to the development of resilience and pro-social skills.

Games, one play modality, engage and motivate children. Playing games offers a safe way to practice taking chances and exploring new things. Games can motivate and they allow children to demonstrate learning, skill building, and often skill mastery.  Play/games foster a growth mindset and reinforce the fact that failure is not a setback or finite outcome. Instead, it is an opportunity to re-adjust strategy, try something new, and hone a variety of skills such as: problem-solving, sustained attention, turn-taking, sharing, compromise, cooperation, empathy, handling emotions, reading social cues, etc.

In partnership with Lipsett Learning Connection, The Wise Family is pleased to offer two groups that harness the power of play to support your children’s social emotional growth.

  • The Social Skills Tinker Group is targeted for children ages 5-7 who may struggle with one or more of the following: developing a plan and following it through, managing emotions when things don’t go as planned, accepting ideas from others, and sharing.
  • For children ages 8-10, we have the Game Lab, where participants will explore skills and strategies used while playing games and then work collaboratively to create original games. Through the sessions, children will practice communicating, problem-solving, and managing emotions.
We hope your child(ren) will join us for a group. As they say- Game On!

 

~Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling and Guest Blog Contributor

 


Both groups are open for registration! Space is limited so be sure to book soon using the above registration links. If you have any questions about either group, don’t hesitate to reach out to support@thewisefamily.com.

Remember, Be Wise!

 

 

 

Last week, we completed our series on mindfulness practices for all ages. This week, our team of clinicians focuses on the power of EMPATHY and how that plays into making connections.

Why is it important to not only teach but model empathy and kindness in deed AND in our words?


Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling – Merrian Webster defines empathy as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another.”

Empathy is an essential life skill because we do not live in isolation. Each day brings about situations that necessitate sharing space and/or interacting with other people. In order to do this successfully, it is important to understand someone else’s perspective. In her book, Mind In the Making: The 7 Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs, Ellen Galinsky discusses the importance of focus and self control, perspective taking, communication, making connections, critical thinking, taking on challenges, and self-directed, engaged learning. These skills build upon one another and are interconnected. Empathy encompasses the first five skills.

So, if it is extremely complex and necessary, how can you support your child in building empathy? First, it is important to understand the difference between empathy and sympathy. My favorite explanation is Brene Brown’s on Empathy. Then, with a foundational understanding of the concept you can model perspective taking for your children, talk about feelings – all feelings (even the uncomfortable ones), acknowledge all feelings even if they differ from yours, and encourage your child to be a “Social Detective” by using their “eyes, ears, and brains to figure out what others are planning to do next or are presently doing and what they mean by their words and actions” and how they are feeling.

Amanda Beyland, LCSW – Empathy allows us to understand and be sensitive to the feelings of another while enabling us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and see things through the eyes of someone else.

Empathy can be shown through compassion, understanding, and valuing others. Kids are always watching and learning from their parents, which is why it’s important to be empathetic, show compassion and kindness for others to set an example that can be learned from. Show children empathy by being understanding when someone else makes a mistake, treating others kindness, and celebrating differences.

In order for children to be able to understand the emotions of others they must first be able to recognize their own emotions. We can help children to understand their feelings, or others’, by pointing out and talking about them even if it means sharing how certain things make you feel.

Dominique Adkins, Ed.d, LPC, NCC, ACS – In its simplest terms empathy is the ability to understate, share, and experience the feelings of another. Berkeley University (2018) shared that empathy can be broken down into two categories; affective and cognitive.

Affective empathy is the sensations and feelings one gets in response to others’ emotions. Cognitive empathy or perspective taking is the ability to identify, understand, and communicate the emotions of another person while staying out of judgment (the hard part).

Empathy fuels connection because it is a sacred space where you can feel with people. It is important to model and teach empathy because it is the only way to have meaningful and impactful relationships.

When challenging situations with your teen arise, remember this also as an opportunity to model empathy. While you may not agree with the decision he/she made you can understand the pain, stress, or anxiety that can be associated with making any difficult decision. Coming from an empathetic place can help increase your teen’s understanding of his/her feelings while fueling connection.


Stay tuned for more information on empathy and kindness this month. Until next week, Be Wise!

Reference: Berkeley University (2018). Empathy Defined. Greater Good Magazine. Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/empathy/definition

 

Finishing up our series from the New York Times on mindfulness with talk about older children and teens.

Whenever we mention mindfulness or meditation to an older kid or teenager, they immediately do one of two things –  

  1. Roll their eyes, OR 
  2. Jump into the lotus pose and put their outstretched hands on their knees (“Like Buddha”, one 14-year-old told me last week) 

Meditation and mindfulness have a rough reputation among adolescents – most tell us that there is NO WAY they can quiet their mind. “How do you even do that?”, they say. And we say, “You can’t, completely, but you can find ways to focus your thoughts so that lots of distractions don’t jumble up in your head and make a mess.”  

The adolescent brain is making millions of neuronal connections every minute, which makes for some pretty fuzzy thinking – and is one of the reasons adolescents can be poor decision makers.  

Mindfulness practices can make thinking easier! See what older kids and teens can do to build this practice – and Be Wise! 


Older Children 

Children can benefit from mindfulness to adjust as they move through school — and start to experience a wider world. 

IN SCHOOL 

As children move through elementary and middle school, mindfulness can be a powerful tool, allowing them to deal with adversity more skillfully, and also enhance their understanding of the world and themselves. “Everything can be received and met with this kind curiosity,” said Ms. Morey. “That can then translate into their own self attitude, giving them space to figure out what they want to do with their lives and who they are.” 

At this age, mindfulness practice can also help children in school. A recent study found that fourth and fifth graders who took a four-month meditation program demonstrated improvements in cognitive control, working memory and math test scores. Other studies have shown that mindfulness can be especially helpful to children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and also reduce children’s aggression, anxiety and stress. And around the country, many educational institutions — from elementary schools to graduate programs — are bringing mindfulness training into the classroom. 

RELIEVE THE PRESSURE 

Even with mindfulness, parenting can still be a challenge. As children experience the natural highs and lows that are part of growing up, it is all too easy — even natural — for the parent be buffeted by the child’s emotional roller coaster. But in time, mindfulness practice can relieve parents and caregivers from some of the pressure of identifying with every up or down the child experiences.   

“That’s where this sense of not having strong grip on a sense of self is so important,” said Ms. Greenland. “Not only do they worry about the kids, but they worry that kids are a reflection on them. It gets conflated. If the kid is acting out or not going to Harvard, then the parent worries that that is a reflection on them.” 

A simple exercise, known as R.A.I.N., can help us stay in the present moment and not get caught up clinging to the experiences of others, or our own emotions.  

  • R: Recognize. Acknowledge what is happening, just noting it in a calm and accepting manner. 
  • A: Accept. Allow life to be just as it is, without trying to change it right away, and without wishing it were different somehow.  
  • I: Investigate. See how it feels, whether it is making you upset or happy, giving you pleasure or pain, just note it.  
  • N: Non-Identification. Realize that the sensations you are feeling make for a fleeting experience, one that will soon pass. It isn’t who you are. 

Teenagers 

Teenagers can experience mindfulness in much the same way as adults, but they may also show resistance or frustration with the practice.  

MINDFUL TOGETHER 

For teenagers, one of the most important ways to engage with mindfulness is through a focus on relationships: Bringing a mindful attitude into conversations, friendships and even budding romances. “Relational mindfulness becomes a very important part of the practice,” said Ms. Greenland. In each relationship, and even each interaction, there should be an effort to stay present, listen carefully and speak with honesty and kindness.  

For families, one way to ritualize this is to make a point of having dinners together, something that is all too easy to lose track of when schedules get overstuffed. “It’s simple, but actually having sit down dinners can be powerful, just actually checking in,” said Ms. Morey. “Try each sharing a joyful moment that happened during the day.” 

Also, try to minimize distractions by putting phones and other devices away during mealtime. And try to share a moment of silence before you eat, taking time to be grateful for the company of your family.

BEING A PRESENT PARENT 

For parents, too, this can be a challenging time to practice mindfulness with children. After all, if a teenager is lost in his or her smartphone, what does it matter if the parent is surfing the web, too? But that’s exactly when the parent needs to be mindful the most, modeling good behavior for their child — staying kind, compassionate and accepting in the present moment. 

“It’s hard to remember to be mindful when you have this busy personal and professional life,” said Ms. Kim. “But if we learn to see the act of parenting as a practice itself, it can open up a whole other level of what we’re doing.” 

Be Wise, and be mindful.

 

 

 

Resource: Gelles, D. Mindfulness for Children. New York Times. New York, NY.