The beginning of the school year is often a time that we hear from parents who are frustrated with their children's behavior. As elementary schoolers head off to school, they look so big and capable marching onto the bus. Yet the minute they get home, their behavior appears more akin to the "terrible twos" than the mature elementary school kid of the same morning. While this "let down" is very typical early in the school year as kids get used to holding it together all. day. long., there are things parents can do to help their children learn to manage emotions in a healthy, productive way. Just because it's normal, doesn't mean it has to be this way! The school transition, like any other challenging emotional time, is a great opportunity to teach kids the skills they need to BEHAVE in ways that they are proud of in spite of their VERY BIG emotions.
The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel Siegel is a helpful book on this topic. Visualizing the brain is a helpful first step for parents and kids trying to make sense of big emotions. The Left vs. Right Brain and Upstairs vs. Downstairs Brain are two helpful ways to understand the competing parts of the brain; our job as caregivers is to help children integrate both parts of their brains. Tantrums, aggression, outbursts, meltdowns, and other difficult behaviors are a result of disintegration. That is, children (or adults!) get STUCK in one part of the brain and need to learn the skills to access the other part.
Left vs. Right Brain
Left + right = facts + comprehension
Helping children learn to use both their left (logical, "robot") brain and their right (emotional) brain prepares them to live fulfilling lives and have healthy relationships.
Quick Tips for Parents
Upstairs vs. Downstairs Brain
Upstairs + downstairs = reason and instinct
Dr. Siegel refers to the upstairs brain as "under construction" because it is not fully developed until the mid-20's while babies are born with their downstairs brain. Be patient! Downstairs tantrums and outbursts are evidence of a skills deficit, not a lack of motivation to behave. Often children are as frustrated by their lack of self control as we are!
Quick Tips for Parents
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. Please consult your insurance company directly for more specific information.
Sidenote: We do support insurance-based counseling at Abundant Life Partners. We highly value accessibility to mental health services and as such are credentialed with most major insurance plans and EAPs in addition to offering cash-based, sliding scale services. All that said...
Insurance Reality #1 | It’s Not Exactly Confidential
To process insurance claims, we use an Electronic Medical Record System. Last year alone, the Department of Health and Human Services recorded approximately 24,000 HIPAA violations. The more information that is disclosed to a 3rd party insurance or technology company, the greater the risk to your information being out there. Additionally diagnoses provided to insurance companies for reimbursement can be disclosed if you or your child eventually needs a federal background check, wants to be a pilot, etc.
Insurance Reality #2 | You (or Your Child) Have to Be Diagnosed
In order to have insurance cover counseling, we have to provide a diagnosis. For better or worse, insurance companies cover counseling based on “medical necessity.” We believe that counseling can be beneficial for many people for whom a mental health diagnosis is not appropriate. For example, if a couple comes in for counseling, in most cases one person has to receive a mental health diagnosis and be the "identified patient" for insurance to cover services. Many children and teens can benefit from counseling. We love the opportunity to support kids and teens through "normal" developmental challenges without labeling them with a diagnosis that may not be clinically appropriate.
Insurance Reality #3 | They Decide Your Treatment
Insurance companies dictate many of the specifics around treatment delivery. We believe that part of the goal of therapy should be to provide services creatively, effectively, and efficiently to maximize therapeutic benefit. Insurance companies determine the number of sessions and the frequency. They also can stipulate the location that services can take place. These types of decisions would optimally be a choice between you and your therapist based upon clinical effectiveness as well as logistical realties. Sometimes you need shorter sessions or longer ones. Maybe you need them 2x per week or once per month. When an insurance company is involved, they decide payment. Clients who pay directly for services enjoy the freedom to choose how services are delivered. We want you to get the best quality of counseling treatment!
1. Power of Connection
Children and adolescents often feel as though their problems are unique. Meeting peers who have similar challenges empowers group members to put words to their problems while feeling validated and understood. Given the increasing importance of peers in their lives, children and adolescents often share more openly in the context of a peer group than individually with a parent or other adult.
2. Opportunity to Develop Social Skills
Groups enable children and adolescents to learn and practice social skills âin vivo,â so to speak. The therapist models active listening and provides feedback on social behaviors in a supportive manner. Groups provide a setting in which group members can learn and implement prosocial behaviors that ultimately become part of their everyday lives.
3. Affordable, Alternative Way to Get Support
Individual therapy is not always the answer â or the only answer. Group therapy is often more affordable than individual therapy. Group therapy might be a good addition to individual therapy or a more comfortable option for those who are not sure their issues warrant individual therapy. Group therapy can also be a helpful step-down â a way to maintain gains from individual treatment after completing work with an individual therapist.
4. Healing Power of Serving Others
I often say that the best way to boost self-esteem is to do esteem-able things. Group therapy provides an opportunity for participants to give feedback and support to others. This experience inherently builds self-esteem as participants realize that they have the power to help others. For individuals who are frequently in the position of needing extra support, this opportunity to give is invaluable in enhancing self-worth.
5. Forming Relationships
Groups are a safe, structured place to build relationships. Many participants come to group with histories of negative social interactions. These negative experiences often lead to behaviors, mannerisms, and patterns that continue the cycle of negative peer relationships. I like to say that group offers the opportunity for âeasy winsâ in the relationship department. These âwinsâ can be the boost that participants need to start a cycle of positive relationships outside the therapy room.
**If you think your child might benefit from a group, please contact us today. If you or your child aren't a fit for one of our current offerings, please let us know as we're open to forming more groups. Did we mention we at Abundant Life Partners LOVE groups?!
School's out for the summer!
Backpacks have been thrown into the middle of the hallway, and they're ready for non-stop fun. You've awaited this day too ... visions of sleeping in, nag-free mornings, and evening pool time (in lieu of bath time)...
Then the reality hits -- sibling fights, whining, eating all.day.long, and the dreaded, "I'm bored"...
Summer comes in waves (pun intended), so here are my top three tips for surviving the first week (or two) of summer.
1. GIVE YOUR KIDS GRACE: They need grace. This is a transition for everyone. If adults struggle to manage their emotions in times of transition, imagine how difficult it is for kids?! They are not intentionally trying to drive you crazy -- they're balls of excitement that have been tightly wound, and all of a sudden, "WHAM!" They've come unraveled. Your job these first few days is to TEACH them how to handle excitement and sudden changes in routine. This is a life skill.
2. GIVE YOURSELF GRACE: You need grace. You don't need to turn into super-organized- summer-fun mom overnight. Your space has suddenly been invaded, so do what you need to do. Extra screen time? Why not? Let the kids "veg" for a few days. (Mine might have set a world-record for Trolls times-watched in a 3-day period.) You don't need to pack your entire summer to-do list into this week. (Spoiler alert - I'm not huge on summer to-do lists.) This week is not indicative of the rest of the summer -- it's just the first week. The way that today went does not have to be the way tomorrow goes. Set a goal, and make a change. That's another life skill.
3. COMPARE and DESPAIR: As you start planning for the rest of your summer, resist the urge to compare. You're welcome to keep browsing Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram for highlights from the most accomplished moms of summer. However, balance the social media browsing with focusing on what is most important to you and your family. Sure, you can feel down for a hot second that you can't afford Disney this year (or ever...sorry kids), but then move on. Your kids won't suffer if they can't go to every camp, or you can't pull off the swim team scene. Maybe you won't make the perfect chore chart or have your kids reading everyday. Admit your limitations and move on. That's another life skill.
You will survive this transition, and in the meantime, you're teaching your kids some very important life skills. Stay tuned for my next tips on how to thrive throughout the rest of the summer. Until then, keep it simple. Grace abounds.
PS: If you have a kid who struggles with intense emotions and changes, consider signing up for my summer coping skills group for kids ages 8-12... enrolling now! Only a couple of spots remain so contact me today for more information.