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Back to School Blues

Clair Mellenthin’s interview on Fresh Living on KUTV.

Follow the link: https://kutv.com/features/fresh-living/clair-mellenthin-back-to-school-blues

 

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Ready or Not, Here It Comes: 3 Tips for Back to School

Ready or not, it’s back to school! With the end of summer comes new teachers, new books and supplies, and a new schedule for our kiddos. It’s an exciting time, but it can also be pretty overwhelming. Here are some ways to help your children with the transition of going back to school:

1) Check In With Them Emotionally

Often children have big feelings about new changes (such as returning to school), but they don’t quite have the words to articulate it, so parents can help coax things out of them. Asking things like, “what are you looking forward to about school?” can help them express their emotions. Without emphasizing the negative, be sure to also ask things like, “is there anything you’re nervous about?” so they can get those anxious feelings out and begin to work through them. Remember, the more you can help kids name their emotions, the more manageable those feelings become for them.

2) Set up Bedtime Rituals

Routines and rituals are so important for children to create a sense of consistency, and bedtime in particular is crucial. These little growing bodies and minds need their sleep! A good night’s rest sets the day for them to have the energy, strength, and enthusiasm to face the transition of the starting school year.

3) Don’t Burden Them With Your Own Stress

This one can be tricky for parents. The truth is that we as adults have a lot to think about when school begins again. Uniforms, sports teams, Back-to-School night, shopping for new supplies, etc., and it’s not hard to see how we can easily get overwhelmed. Be careful though, as our little ones are often more aware of our emotions than we may think. Remember that although no one is a “perfect” parent, we need to try to not burden then with our own feelings. If back-to-school stress has got you down, try to unload and process to a spouse or a friend instead.

How are YOU helping your kids transition back into school?

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School Daze

 
As a Mom of 5 school aged children, I remember that feeling of ELATION when my last child graduated from high school. My homework was finally complete!  During those 20 plus years, I now realize that, with good intent, I spent a fair amount of time hovering over my children “paying extremely close attention to their experiences and problems particularly at educational institutions”, much like a “helicopter parent.”
 
I have since discovered that the line between being a supportive parent and a hovering helicopter can be blurry, according to Malinda Carlson who authored the article “10 Warning Signs that You Might Be a Helicopter Parent (and How to Stop). Malinda states that “Nobody sets out to be a helicopter parent; it kind of creeps up on you.”
 
So… How can you avoid being a full time “helicopter parent?”
 
Listen to your child.  Refrain from imposing your goals and wishes upon them.
 
Don’t try to help your child escape consequences for their actions unless you believe they are life altering or unfair. 
 
Encourage your children to solve their own problems by asking them to think about possible solutions.
 
Don’t do your children’s work for them or completely relieve them from the responsibility of keeping track of deadlines.  
 
Support your child’s teacher and encourage your child to respect the teachers opinions.
 
Allow your child to face natural consequences for their actions.
 
Don’t complete tasks that your child is capable of completing for themselves.
 
Let go of negative thoughts about your child’s future
 
Don’t micromanage your child’s life.
 
Avoid constantly worrying about your children.
 
Give them the opportunity to take small risks.
 
Take a few steps back and and give them some space.  
 
Some studies show that children who are hovered over by a “helicopter parent” were more likely to feel “self-conscious, worried, angry and have a poor sense of self esteem.”  However, other studies show that helicopter parenting can:
 
Help parents to know if the child is safe.
 
Assist the child to be less likely to misbehave and develop into a well mannered person.
 
Help develop a special bond between the child and the parent.
 
Help the child develop a better attitude towards life. 
 
So… It’s up to you as parents to determine what style of parenting works well you and your children.
 
If you would like to take a closer look at your style of parenting, call and make an appointment with me.
 
Happy parenting
 
Sue Hodges
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Wasatch Family therapy
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Emotional Intelligence as a Back to School Skill

unnamed-1One of the things I spend time doing, explaining and reiterating with myself, as well as my clients with and without children, is emotional intelligence.  If there’s anything that gets in the way of living a full, rich, and meaningful life, it’s our experience with our emotions. The ability to gain emotional intelligence is a key skill in allowing us to truly understand ourselves and our reactions to events around us, because those are the only things we can really control – ourselves and our reactions.  As we enter a new school year and support the children in our lives with the changes that inevitably come with it, I am sharing a few key concepts related to emotional intelligence as a starting point for a successful year.

Emotional Intelligence is briefly discussed here by its popular advocate and author – Dr. Daniel Goleman. One of the first things he says is that Emotional Intelligence is that it is how we handle ourselves in our relationships.

Then, he lists 4 domains that create emotional intelligence:

  1. Self awareness – knowing what we’re feeling and why we’re feeling it.
  2. Self management – handling distressing emotions in an effective way so that they don’t cripple you & tuning into them for what they can teach you  – because even though they aren’t fun, they still serve a purpose and it’s okay to explore what that purpose is.
  3. Empathy – knowing what someone else is feeling.
  4. Social Interaction Skills – Putting it all together as a skill in significant relationships.

He then talks about how the part of our brain that allows us to do this is the part that grows the slowest – chronologically and developmentally – in our brains. He then goes on to talk about neuroplasticity which is basically the flexible nature of the brain as an organ. He mentions that our brains develop based on repeated experiences and he uses that as the foundation to encourage us to talk about self-awareness, self-management, empathy, and social skills with kids at early ages and in systematic ways.

There are a number of books that have helped revolutionize parenting in this respect and they have been really helpful to me, personally and professionally. One of the struggles in parenting that I have seen with other parents and caregivers is the habit we have of associating our ability to make sense of the world to our children’s abilities to do the same thing in the same way. On our lesser days, it can be frustrating when they don’t act like the little adults that many of us may have been raised to be when we were kids!  Yet, when we remember Goleman’s words, we can remind ourselves that neurotypical children’s brains are not developmentally capable of verbally articulating the four concepts outlined above if they aren’t taught to recognize what the 4 concepts feel like and helped to identify when they are feeling any of the four concepts. That is our job as the adult in a child’s life.

The important thing that has helped me, the parents, and caregivers that I work with has been to understand that our kids feel  a lot of things – good and bad – that they struggle to explain to us in words.  Again, our job as parents, is to help them gain the vocabulary to do so. However, we can’t teach them what we don’t know or haven’t personally experienced, so it’s important that we practice becoming aware of our own emotional experiences, managing them, practicing empathy, and enhancing our social skills in the relationships that matter most to us, especially with the people who depend on us for guidance and support.

Emotional intelligence is probably the coolest thing to have in our backpacks as we head into the new school year! Find ways that you can sharpen your skillset and pass your understanding on to your kids by modeling healthy steps towards emotional intelligence.

 

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KUTV Segment: How to Handle the Back-to-School Blues


 
It’s that time of year- time for the kids to head back to school. It can be exciting for kids to see their friends and get back into the school routine again, but it can difficult, too. Some children may even experience “the back-to-school blues.”

Clair Mellenthin, LSCW, recently sat down for a KUTV segment to talk about how parents can help their kids make this transition. Here are a few ideas from her discussion:

Nightly check-ins are a great way to understand how your child feels about going back to school. Every night, ask about he/she feels about the change. If your child is excited, then celebrate! If not, you can help address some of his/her concerns. Make sure to keep the lines of communication open, especially for children who are prone to worry.

Another strategy Clair suggested is to ease your kids into school mode. Parents can have their kids start to go to bed earlier and read a little more every day in the weeks leading up to the first day back. Getting ready for school little by little will help manage the transition.

Once school does begin, parents should check in to see how things are going. If a child still seems to be experiencing the blues, work to identify and solve problems he/she may be having with friends, the teacher, or understanding the school work.

How are YOU helping your kids with the back-to-school blues?

Watch the full video to hear more of Clair’s suggestions.

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Easing First Grade Jitters: Tips For Back To School

Many parents with kids entering first grade are shocked about how big this transition is for their child. They go from being in school part of the day or even part of the week in kindergarten to being in school for the full day. This is a full day without mom and dad, without the comforts of home and without knowing what to expect. Often times many first graders develop anxiety for the first couple of weeks and may exhibit some regressive behaviors during that time. Watch the video to learn some tips for helping your kids get through this transitional period.

 

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Let Back to School Inspire You: Studio 5

Back to school doesn’t have to be all about your kids. Let the start of a new school year inspire you. Therapist, Julie Hanks, has a grown-up perspective on back to school that can help improve your emotional health. I recently did an interview for Natural Health Magazine’s article “Back to School for Grown Ups” about channeling school day memories and fall’s energy to improve our lives as adults. Here’s a quote from the article:

The weather, certain smells, certain tastes-all of these things can trigger memories of earlier experiences,” says Julie Hanks LCSW, a psychotherapist in Salt Lake City. “Come fall, some women feel the same type of anticipation they did as kids and might even unconsciously find ways to relive or improve upon the experience.”

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Do You Have an ‘Overbooked’ Child?: KSL 5 News

The Overbooked Child

Good parents sign their kids up for dance, sports, music, art, and language lessons, right? In a recent NewYorkTimes.com article Alina Tugend says, “…in an effort to give their children everything, some parents end up not just depleting financial resources, but also their own emotional energy.”  Exposure to early opportunities, classes, sports, and lessons to gain skills doesn’t guarantee future success for your child, and in some cases may be detrimental to your child and family. Here are some common myths that lead to overbooked kids, parenting truths and tips to help you to give your child what he or she really needs to succeed.

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The Importance of Social Emotional Learning: KSL 5 News

Holly Willard, LCSW discusses the importance of social, emotional learning on KSL’s morning news.

Wasatch Family Therapy
Read Holly’s suggestions for activities that help increase your child’s emotional IQ.

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