Trouble at School
Kids spend more time in school than anywhere else. When school is going well, they’re on top of the world, but when it’s not, it has a HUGE impact on how kids feel about life and about themselves. Of course, when kids aren’t doing well at school, the stress tends to carry over into family life as well.
Whether they’re struggling with learning issues, bullying, school refusal, test anxiety, social anxiety, or conflicts with peers, I help kids use the strengths and creativity they already have to puzzle out what’s getting in their way, increase their confidence, and find their way through.
I also support parents in advocating for their kids at school. When appropriate, I collaborate with teachers and school administrators to come up with a support plan that will help kids be successful. It helps that I’ve worked in schools for over 15 years as both teacher and counselor. I understand the perspectives of all the parties involved: teachers, school administrators, parents, and kids. Together, we create a plan that places your child’s best interest at the center.
Fears and Anxiety
It’s human to worry sometimes. But when anxiety and fear lead our kids to avoid the social situations and activities they love, it’s time to get help. I teach kids how to manage their fears, calm their bodies, and move forward even when they’re unsure how things will turn out. Kids of all ages feel empowered when they learn the brain science of how the anxiety cycle works in their own bodies and minds. Together, we create a plan that puts them in charge instead of their anxiety. Kids feel so much better when they find that they can do the things they were afraid to do.
Human beings are social creatures, and friendships are central to our happiness. We all need someone to play with, laugh with, someone who understands us. When kids have trouble making or keeping friends, it can really impact self-esteem. I help untangle the knots that keep kids isolated, rejected, or in constant conflicts with their peers. Together, we uncover their courage and practice the skills of making friends and being a good friend while still being true to yourself.
Problems when parents separate or divorce
Separation and divorce can leave kids with a lot of uncertainty, stress, and confusion. The good news is that with help, kids can adapt and thrive after parental separation. Avoiding blame and assuring kids that they don’t have to take sides is key! I help parents think through what to say to their kids and how to create structures and routines that help kids feel secure and loved. I give kids a safe place to express their feelings and worries, along with age-appropriate psycho-education about separation and divorce. Kids feel deeply reassured when they we show them we understand what’s going on for them and that their reactions are normal.
Grief and loss
Loss is something we often want to protect our kids from. But life happens, and sometimes that includes the illness, injury, or death of a beloved relative or friend. At times like these, kids can experience a lot of fears, insecurity, and confusion.
Often, the adults are reeling with their own stress and grief. Parents can feel confused about their child’s reactions or apparent lack of reactions to the loss. Kids may keep their worries and feelings to themselves in an attempt to protect their parents from additional stress, or they may lash out in unexpected, seemingly unrelated ways. Although each child’s grief is unique, it’s normal for loss to trigger stress, anxiety, or anger in kids.
I provide a safe place where children can work through their loss. I give kids information about grief so they don’t worry that there’s something wrong with them. Using a combination of art, sand tray, puppets, writing, and talking, I give children the opportunity to express their feelings free from the worry of burdening their parents.
I give parents information about what grief can look like at different ages and stages, and I make suggestions for supporting their child’s experience, whatever it may be. I help parents think through what to say to their kids and how to maintain the routines that help kids feel secure and loved.
Loss is a part of life. Grieving is a process that takes time, but with love and support, kids can heal from the loss of a loved one.
Bickering. Arguing. Power struggles. The bane of a parent’s existence! It takes such a toll on our energy and sometimes it can even make us lose sight of the love we feel. But when we clearly understand the needs our kids are expressing (if in a highly unproductive fashion!) our hearts open and we can find new ways to reconnect.
I work with kids and parents to lower that heart-racing, emotional intensity, which makes it easier to solve problems. I also help families set up routines that increase cooperation and decrease conflict. Together, we find creative, practical solutions that meet everyone’s needs.
I work with kids and parents together, to help the whole family react less emotionally and learn practical skills for solving problems together.
Anger and explosive outbursts
Some kids can be the most lovable, loving people imaginable in one moment, and then suddenly explode like a tossed water balloon when something doesn’t go their way. They react in a split second, without a thought for the consequences of their actions. They’re not alone! Lots of kids need help learning to manage their emotions.
I help kids learn to tolerate frustration, manage their anger, express their feelings appropriately, and use their problem-solving abilities when challenging situations arise. I also teach mindfulness skills and tools for de-activating the fight/flight response in the heat of the moment. Together, we create tailor-made strategies to outwit or to make friends with their temper.
Ah, sleep. If only you and your kid could string together a few good nights of sleep everything would be better! Well, it’s true: lack of sleep impacts everything from frustration tolerance to mood swings to the ability to listen and learn. That’s true for adults and kids! There can be many factors contributing to sleepless nights: nightmares or other night fears, changes in family routines like moving to a new home, bedwetting (see “Bedwetting or ‘accidents’ at school” below) or high intensity kids who have a hard time winding down. Sleep problems are often tangled up with anxiety, anger, and stress.
I help untangle the strands that are contributing to sleepless nights. We look at what’s been working and where things break down. Together, we create sleep routines that work for both parents and kids. Better sleep is possible, for both your child and you!
Bedwetting or “accidents” at school
We eat, we drink, we pee, we poop (hopefully, in the toilet). Would that it were that simple! For some kids, though, it’s anything but. One child uses the toilet successfully for months (or years) and then suddenly starts having accidents. Another refuses to poop in the toilet or will only poop at home, not at school. Or perhaps your child is dry during the day but has been wetting the bed at night long past when you think they should have stopped.
Toileting issues are not only frustrating, but worrying for parents. We’re frustrated that nothing seems to work; we worry about health consequences, and we worry about the potential shame or embarrassment if other kids find out. I help families interrupt the shame and blame cycle. Together, we decide how best to address the problem. Kids feel supported, parents feel hopeful, and gradually (or suddenly) toileting struggles become a story of “Remember when…?”
Being “extra sensitive”
Let’s face it: some kids are just more sensitive than others. A movie (that doesn’t seem to bother anyone else’s kid), the carrots touching the chicken leg on their plate–even the texture of their socks can send them into a meltdown. These kids were born with a sensitive temperament.
The good news is that the same sensitivity that’s driving you nuts now makes for a deeply enriched life as an adult. Attention to sensory details is an asset for scientists, artists, and chefs; experiencing strong emotions develops empathy and self-awareness, perhaps the most important qualities to building healthy adult relationships.
I help families learn how to identify and work with, instead of against, kids’ sensitivities. I teach self-soothing skills to re-set the nervous system when kids are over-stimulated. And I help parents create strategies to manage your child’s environment to reduce the frequency of meltdowns.
By the way, Mary Sheedy Kurcinka has written a terrific book on understanding and parenting sensitive kids. It’s called Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic. I highly recommend it!