Coping with Back to School Stress

The time has finally come. Summer is officially over and you are probably in denial that it is time to head back to school. Where did the time go? Did you do everything you said you were going to do over the summer? Do you feel like you made the best use of your time on your days off? These are all questions you may be thinking about when the summer has come to an end.

Heading back to school after being off for a long period of time can present various challenges, thoughts and emotions. Going back to school can be exciting, anxiety provoking and a stressful time for children, teens and parents. Getting back into a scheduled routine can present challenges. Getting up early, prepping lunches, making sure homework is complete on top of doing all of your daily tasks, working and so forth. One recommendation is to use a calendar. Whether it is paper or on your phone, it is essential to get organized and know everyone's schedules and deadlines. Staying organized helps eliminate stress and prevents you from running around like a crazy person trying to get everything ready. Don't be afraid to ask for help from another parent, grandparent or even your children if they are of an appropriate age to help. Most kids can make their own lunches and check to make sure they have their homework and books they need for school.

Take one day at a time. I know, easier said then done. We tend to look at the huge list of things we need to do instead of taking one task at a time. The more we think about all the things we need to do the more stressed and anxious we become. Take each task, focus on it and if those irrational thoughts keep popping in your head that you will "never get all of this done", do thought stopping. Stop the thought in its track and reframe your thought by reminding yourself that you have to get through your current task before you can move on to the next one. Getting overwhelmed and worried that you won't get it all done takes up more time then if you would have started the task in the first place.

Maybe you have figured out your whole scheduling routine and are managing your endless task list. Lets shift the focus to our children and teens and how they are coping with back to school stress. What if you or your child/teen is struggling with the transition beyond the normal transitional time period and is having a difficult time adjusting? Listen to your child. Listen to what they are thinking and feeling and validate their emotions. Acknowledge that going back to school can trigger various emotions of excitement, anxiety, or fear. Empathize with them what they are experiencing and provide support for them during the transition. It is also important to find a solution with your child to help them transition effectively. For example, if your child is struggling with separation anxiety and misses you during the day. Do a craft together that reminds them of you or send your child with a picture and let them know that you are always with them even if not present. As parents we are here to help our children grow and overcome difficult challenges and times in their lives. If you feel like your child is really struggling beyond the transitional time period, is experiencing anxiety that is disrupting their functioning at school or home, have them assessed by a counselor to identify what is going on and what helpful tools and techniques your child can learn to help the adjust smoothly and enjoy their overall school experience.

 

How To Tell Your Children That You Are Getting A Divorce

Getting a divorce can be a challenging process for any relationship. When children are involved, it can make the situation a bit more complicated. You may be wondering; how can we tell the children? When do we tell our children? What do we say to them to make this as least painful as possible?

Here are some helpful tips that may help ease your situation:

1. Sit down with each other and decide on when the best time would be to tell your children. Should you tell them before or after your divorce is finalized? Make sure that you are 100% that you are following through with the divorce before you tell your children. You need to be unified parents and on the same page as much as possible for the benefit of your children. Having a family meeting can be most helpful with both parents present. Pick a time when both you and your spouse feel emotionally ready to share the news. You will both need to put your emotions aside (which I know can be difficult) and think about what is best for your children.

2. Avoid sharing information that is harmful to your children. Some details are not necessary to share with your children and often times the child will become confused. It doesn't matter who initiated the divorce or what happened. By sharing too much information may cause more harm to your child and the relationship they have with either parent. Tell them what they need to know (Where will they be living? When will they see each parent? Will they continue to stay at their current school?).

3. Be open in answering any questions your children have but refrain from blaming the other parent. Blaming each other for the divorce in front of your child or telling them whose "fault" it is may force the child to feel like they need to choose a parent's side. The goal is for the child to continue to grow their relationships with both mom and dad. Both parental figures have important roles in a child's life for them to thrive in the current divorce situation. Keep your thoughts to yourself or seek support from friends, family or a professional counselor.

4. Try to understand your child's feelings towards the divorce and listen to them when they want to talk. Put yourself in your child's shoes: how would you feel if your parent's told you that they were getting a divorce and wouldn't be living together anymore? Everything they once knew is going to be changing. Help your child process their thoughts and feelings and reassure them that you both love them and that this was not their fault. Many children think that when their parents are getting a divorce that it is something they did. Make sure to reenforce that the reason for the divorce is nothing to do with anything they said or did and that it is between mom and dad.

5. Communication is key. As difficult as it may be, having clear communication with one another is the most beneficial for the children during a divorce situation. Letting each other know how the kids are doing and working with one another for scheduling and conflicts is helpful. Try to work together and be unified in establishing boundaries and expectations for one another and for the children. Predictability is helpful for everyone involved. If there are things you don't agree upon, communicate with one another and try to resolve the issues before things escalate.

6. Self-care for both parties. Each of you need to stay as calm as possible and make sure that you take care of yourselves. Divorce brings a range of emotions and it is important that you are taking care of yourself both physically and mentally in order for everyone to get through this challenging time. Make time to do things for yourself as you work thorough the grief process.

If you feel like you are struggling with various emotions of divorce or need help finding ways to facilitate various areas of divorce (telling your children, identifying ways for parents to work together, or children having a difficult time with divorce), seek a professional counselor's help.

Life Balance Counseling in Schaumburg has several counselors that help work with divorce situations. Feel free to call our office at 888.234.7628 or info@lbcounseling.com

Pet Loss: How To Help Your Child Cope With Grief

Losing a loved one is a challenging experience for adults and often times can be very confusing for children because they are unsure of the various emotions they are experiencing. The loss of a pet may be your child's first experience with grief and is a great opportunity for parents to teach their child/children healthy ways to cope with grief.

A child may feel confused, sad, angry, or guilty and blame themselves for their pets death. A child may feel scared that other people or animals they love may leave them and may feel anxious or worried. Some parents feel they need to protect their child/children from experiencing their feelings. Parents may tell their child that the pet ran away or went to sleep to make their child feel better. Tell your child in an age appropriate manner of what happened to the family pet and help them learn to cope with their thoughts an feelings during this confusing time. It is better to be honest with children and allow them to experience grief in their own way with your guidance.

When it comes to the loss of a family pet, how do we help children cope with their thoughts and feelings?

  • Parents need to express their own grief and loss of the pet. Don't hide your own thoughts and feelings towards the loss of your pet. Model your thoughts and feelings and the healthy ways you cope with grief. 
  • Let your child express their grief. Let your child feel their emotions and offer them support and guidance during the process. Don't tell them not to cry. It is okay if they feel the need to cry.
  • Educate your child about grief and loss and reassure your child. Help your child understand that the death of their pet was not their fault. Reassure them that other people they love are not going to die and talk to them about their feelings and concerns.
  • Allow your child/children to be a part of the memorial for the pet. This helps the child/children learn about closure and honoring the pet. This will help the child process their thoughts and feelings towards their loss.
  • Have your child write a letter or draw a picture for their pet. This is a helpful way for your child to say their goodbyes and get their feelings out about their loss.

If you feel like your child/children is struggling with their thoughts and feelings in relation to a pet loss, contact a Licensed Counselor and discuss ways to help your child cope with their loss. 
At Life Balance Counseling in Schaumburg we have a Certified Grief Counselor that can help. Feel free to contact us at 888.234.7628 for any help and guidance.

Helping Your Child Cope With Chronic Illness

Not only do the parents need to learn how to cope with their child's chronic illness and provide unconditional love and support, but also they need to help their child cope with their condition.  Children with chronic illnesses often deal with more stress than other children.  Children with a chronic illness have to cope with "why" they have a condition, how come other children don't have what they have and why do they have to get painful injections, surgery, chemotherapy, etc.  Unfortunately, there are no simple ways to help your child avoid the stresses they experience when having a chronic illness but there are some ways parents can make the situation a little easier on their children.

  • Listen: whether your child has a chronic condition or not, it is always important to always listen to your child.  What feelings is your child experiencing.  Does he/she feel sad, frustrated, angry or hopeless because they have a chronic illness?  It is valuable for a child to have an understanding that they can talk to their parents about how they feel and have their feelings validated.  
    • Ask how your child is feeling?  How was your day?
    • Explore their feelings...
    • Ask questions...
       
  • Don't be afraid to talk: it is important to encourage open communication with your child regardless if you child has a chronic illness or not.  Having open communication with your child is key and will lay the foundation for their adolescent and adult years.  By not talking about  your child's chronic illness, you are creating ineffective communication patterns and masking feelings that need to be shared and explored.  Both you and your child are going through a very challenging experience and it is important for you to collaborate and work as a team.  By working as a team you will develop a strong parent and child relationship.
     
  • Educate your child about their chronic condition: your child needs to know what their condition is all about.  If you think about how you felt as a parent when you were uneducated about your child's chronic illness, you know how the unknown can provoke anxiety, fear, sadness, and feelings of helplessness.  The same goes for your child.  If they don't know what their condition is, they will have very similar feelings.  The more you and your child know about the condition, the more empowered and in control you will feel.   
    • If your child is young, I would recommend researching children's books that can help explain their condition in an age appropriate manner.  These books can also be helpful during your child's school years so he/she can share the books with their classmates and teachers.  
    • Prepare your child for medical procedures so they know what lies ahead.  Learn ways you can help your child be distracted during procedures (i.e. sing songs, read books, use toys).  Distraction can be very helpful and alleviate some of your child's anxiety and fear.
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  • Encourage your child to spend time with to other children with a chronic illness: your child may feel alone if they don't know anyone else with their chronic condition.  By spending time with other children with a chronic illness, they can learn from them and gain a sense of comfort in knowing that other children are going through similar experiences.  If you think about how alone you may have felt when you found out your child had a chronic condition, you can begin to understand how your child may feel when they are at school and there is no one else at school that has that condition.  They may feel isolated and uncertain and it is always positive to connect with others.
     
  • Emphasize your child's strengths and boost their self-esteem: it is always important to express all of the wonderful strengths your child has.  The goal is to boost your child's self-esteem and ultimately increase their confidence.  Don't be afraid to let your child know how wonderful they really are!
    • What great qualities does your child possess?
    • Communicate to your child: "You did great at your baseball game today or way to get an "A" on your test."
       
  • Help your child lead as normal a life as possible: just like you would do with any child, give provide your children with choices and responsibilities and don't forget to set rules, boundaries, limitations with both rewards and discipline.  Just because your child has a chronic illness does not mean they are off the hook and can do whatever they want.  Children strive on rules, boundaries and limitations, which contribute to their learning and development.  
    • Maintain family routines and traditions as much as possible.  Children also strive on consistency and routine.  When your child has a chronic illness, maintaining routine can be challenging, but the goal is to do the best you can.

Helping your child cope with their chronic illness can be challenging as a parent.  Most parent's wish they could wave a magic wand and their child's chronic illness would vanish and your child would not have to deal with the additional stress and challenge.  However, this is just not the case.  As a parent you are your child's role model.  So once you can accept that your child has a chronic condition, the sooner your can help your child cope with their feelings and accept it.  The goal is to work together as a family and overcome challenges together.  Remember, you are only human and can only do so much, but you do the best you can and that is what is important!