Tag

feelings

The Holiday Blues Coupled with Covid

By | NESCA Notes 2020

By: Angela Currie, Ph.D.
Pediatric Neuropsychologist, NESCA
Director of Training and New Hampshire Operations

The holidays can be a time of great joy, but they can also be a time of great stress. Celebrations and merriment can be contrasted with pressure to amaze, long to-do lists, financial constraints or reminders of those we have lost. For many, it is a time of mixed emotions or strong internal conflict about why they cannot feel happy during a season that practically dictates it.

Holiday blues have been felt my many people for a long time, but now during a global pandemic, those feelings may be amplified and more prevalent than previous years. Families are trying to provide children with a positive holiday experience during a time of high stress and significant restriction. Family gatherings and holiday traditions are being cancelled, and many families are mourning the loss of loved ones. Adults are not the only ones feeling increased stress as we enter the holiday season. Children likely feel excited about the holiday but sad about not seeing family, not having holiday parties in school, and not being able to attend their traditional holiday events. This holiday season is simply different in ways that can bring great strain.

So, what can we do as adults to emotionally support children this holiday season? Do we allow them to observe our stress or do we keep it to ourselves in an effort to provide them with the happy holiday season that they deserve?

In June 2018, I wrote a blog post titled: “The Struggle is Not only Real, It is Necessary,” which discusses the importance of embracing uncomfortable, unwanted emotions as being necessary for personal growth and resiliency. By acknowledging, accepting and using unwanted feelings in a functional manner, we teach children to be competent and confident in their ability to navigate a stressful world. Of course, when I wrote the article, I could not have imagined the extent or duration of stress or discomfort that we would be facing in 2020. But does that change anything?

To put it simply, no, not really. Entering into the holidays with the expectation that we can protect our children from life’s stress is unrealistic. Attempting to do so will only add pressure while ignoring the mixed emotions that children are likely feeling as well. During this emotionally high-stakes time, acceptance of the struggles we face is even more critical. Adults and children both need “permission” to feel sad, frustrated, lonely or scared while also still allowing themselves to feel excited, thankful, and, yes, even joyful.

Here are some suggestions for how to help your family navigate the holiday blues this unique holiday season:

  • Talk about your feelings – wanted and unwanted ones – throughout the day, modeling and encouraging regular emotional discourse (e.g. “I love giving gifts, but getting all the shopping done is kind of stressful.”).
  • Help children label and interpret the emotions they may be having, as they may not have the right words or language for expressing them (e.g. “It sounds like you’re really disappointed we can’t go to Grandma’s house.”).
  • Be careful to not accidentally dismiss children’s feelings (e.g. “No need to be sad; we will find another fun way to celebrate.”), instead reflecting their emotion (e.g. “I know you’re sad that we can’t have a holiday party; I am, too.”).
  • Normalize the experience of mixed emotions (e.g. It’s okay to be excited for children while also feeling sad that we won’t see our family.).
  • Find new, safe holiday activities or events (e.g. holiday light drive, virtual gift exchange, etc.) and adapt previous traditions when able (e.g. virtual family gatherings).
  • Don’t romanticize the traditions that were lost this year (e.g. avoid such things as, “Our parties were always the most magical part of the holiday.”).
  • Help children understand new holiday plans as an opportunity to “celebrate” or “experience” the holiday, but be careful to not impose emotional expectations (e.g. “Enjoy the holidays!”) that can add pressure.
  • Reassure children that these changes are temporary, and traditions and visits will continue when it is safe to do so.

 

About the Author

Dr. Angela Currie is a pediatric neuropsychologist at NESCA. She conducts neuropsychological and psychological evaluations out of our Londonderry, NH office. She specializes in the evaluation of anxious children and teens, working to tease apart the various factors lending to their stress, such as underlying learning, attentional, or emotional challenges. She particularly enjoys working with the seemingly “unmotivated” child, as well as children who have “flown under the radar” for years due to their desire to succeed.

 

To book an evaluation with Dr. Currie or one of our many other expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA’s online intake form. Indicate whether you are seeking an “evaluation” or “consultation” and your preferred clinician in the referral line.

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Londonderry, NH, Plainville, MA, and Newton, MA serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call (603) 818-8526.

But First, Settle into the New Normal

By | NESCA Notes 2020

By Dot Lucci, M.Ed., CAGS

Director of Consultation and Psychoeducational Services, NESCA

Let’s face it, parents have a big job to do when life is “normal,” never mind when we are living in this new normal. Parents are being bombarded with information from every corner of your life—even all of us at NESCA are blogging every day to help parents with information. Packets of educational information are being sent home, online learning classes are being arranged, etc. Talk about information overload. Are you feeling overwhelmed or saturated yet? Do you need a break from it all, even though we are only in week two of this pandemic in the United States?  Some parents are worried about their child’s education and, perhaps, their special education services. I get it. Many federal and state agencies as well as local school districts are trying to figure this out as we speak. This is a time to exercise patience with yourself, your leaders and your family members as we figure this new normal out.

Many of you are not teachers and, even if you are a teacher, teaching your own child is different than teaching your class. To your son/daughter, you are mom/dad—not their teacher.  So, trying on this new role isn’t going to be easy. If you aren’t a teacher, you may feel ill-equipped or may not even not know where to begin in doing these new educational tasks with your children. Even in the best of circumstances, children may “regress” or not learn new content during this time period. It is what it is. They can learn new and different things that aren’t in this realm—something we’ll continue to elaborate on in future blogs.

In the midst of this new normal, you are also home trying to figure out your own new rhythm of working from home or being unemployed, etc. Take the next few weeks to settle into this new normal. We are creating new rhythms as we are all at home trying to work, play, live and love each other. Most importantly during this time, don’t forget to enjoy each other, love each other and have some fun. Given all the tasks being asked of you, be realistic. Ask yourself what you are capable of doing given your circumstances and life realities. Don’t set your expectations too high, or you will be disappointed. Try to create structure out of chaos before you even begin to “be your child’s teacher.”

Words of advice:

  • Smile each day upon waking – make the best of the day
  • Live in the moment – one day at a time
  • Have fun and laugh every day – create moments of laughter and joy, as these are the moments that will be remembered
  • Breathe, and do it deliberately – use a reminder on your smart watch, fitness tracker or phone
  • Communicate honestly with each other
  • Be flexible – know there will be curveballs thrown your way
  • Be kind and gentle with yourself and your family members

These helpful hints will hopefully make each day go a little smoother! We are all in this together.

 

About the Author

NESCA’s Director of Consultation and Psychoeducational Services Dot Lucci has been active in the fields of education, psychology, research and academia for over 30 years. She is a national consultant and speaker on program design and the inclusion of children and adolescents with special needs, especially those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Prior to joining NESCA, Ms. Lucci was the Principal of the Partners Program/EDCO Collaborative and previously the Program Director and Director of Consultation at MGH/Aspire for 13 years, where she built child, teen and young adult programs and established the 3-Ss (self-awareness, social competency and stress management) as the programming backbone. She also served as director of the Autism Support Center. Ms. Lucci was previously an elementary classroom teacher, special educator, researcher, school psychologist, college professor and director of public schools, a private special education school and an education collaborative.

Ms. Lucci directs NESCA’s consultation services to public and private schools, colleges and universities, businesses and community agencies. She also provides psychoeducational counseling directly to students and parents. Ms. Lucci’s clinical interests include mind-body practices, positive psychology, and the use of technology and biofeedback devices in the instruction of social and emotional learning, especially as they apply to neurodiverse individuals.

 

To book a consultation with Ms. Lucci or one of our many expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA’s online intake form. Indicate whether you are seeking an “evaluation” or “consultation” and your preferred clinician/consultant in the referral line.

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

We’re in this together, but do we have to be together all the time?

By | NESCA Notes 2020

By Dot Lucci, M.Ed., CAGS

Director of Consultation and Psychoeducational Services, NESCA

Everyone being home at once is now the “new normal,” and, let’s face it, nothing feels normal about the situation we are in now. We are in uncharted waters and need to create life boats for all of us to use when the going gets tough. No matter how much you love your kids, your pets, your wife, husband or partner and they love you, you will all need some time away from each other.

As you try to create a routine and schedule of activities for your family, one activity to include – one life boat to create – is designated “alone time.” Alone time is when everyone in the house chooses an activity that they can do by themselves without interruption. Specify time limits for alone time based on the ages and stages of your kids and the types of activities they can do independently. This could be watching a movie, reading a book, drawing, playing with special toys (only used during this time), listening to music or a podcast, doing a puzzle, or even a little screen time, etc. Another life boat for parents and guardians needing to work from home is to make “Stop” and “Go” signs to hang on a door. When the Stop sign is up, it means, “No interrupting. ___ (i.e. mom, dad, grandma, etc.) is working.” Each parent or caregiver can take turns with work, keeping in mind that flexibility and kindness is needed for all of us to survive.

Another life boat to create is a calming space. Many kids share a bedroom with a sibling so they do not have a private, separate space to go to as a retreat. A calming space is one that’s as quiet as possible and away from the activity center of your dwelling. It is a separate space to “chill out” in. When you create this space, you will have to teach your kids about the space, what it is used for, how to use it, what can and can’t be done in it, etc. Set boundaries and stick to them so each child can get what they need. Get the kids involved in the design and creation of this new project. Let them choose what goes in it and what types of activities can be done in it. It can be a small nook already available in your house (i.e. under a stairwell, inside a closet, a corner in a bedroom, in the dining room if this space isn’t frequently used, etc.).

If you don’t already have a “nook,” make one. Remember the “calming space” is a separate place used to pause and self-regulate; a cozy place away from everyone else. You can create a “calming space” by tacking a sheet to a couple of walls in a corner to create a triangular space. If you have extra folding chairs, set them up and drape a sheet over the chairs to create a tent-like space. If you go camping and have a room big enough to set up your tent in, do that! With so many packages being delivered these days, be on the lookout for a large delivery or appliance box. Let the kids decorate it. Use a curtain and a rod, hang a hook from the ceiling and attach a canopy.

What goes inside the tent can be decided upon by the kids. If they are new to this, offer some ideas, such as pillows, a sleeping bag, calming music, favorite stuffed animals, weighted blankets, fidget toys, soothing visuals (i.e. lava lamp, water toys, etc.), calming scents, etc. Activities for kids to do when inside may include coloring, drawing, matching games, reading stories about feelings and ways to express feelings, etc. (many are available online and can be downloaded). Each child could have their own box outside the calming space that has their own calming items in it to use when they enter the calming space. Encourage your child or have items in the space that promote calm and mindfulness, such as deep breathing exercises, calming scents, serene images, soft music, feeling cards, etc.).

Let this be a break from the chaotic pace of life and uncertainty of the present.

Resources for specific calming activities:

 

About the Author

NESCA’s Director of Consultation and Psychoeducational Services Dot Lucci has been active in the fields of education, psychology, research and academia for over 30 years. She is a national consultant and speaker on program design and the inclusion of children and adolescents with special needs, especially those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Prior to joining NESCA, Ms. Lucci was the Principal of the Partners Program/EDCO Collaborative and previously the Program Director and Director of Consultation at MGH/Aspire for 13 years, where she built child, teen and young adult programs and established the 3-Ss (self-awareness, social competency and stress management) as the programming backbone. She also served as director of the Autism Support Center. Ms. Lucci was previously an elementary classroom teacher, special educator, researcher, school psychologist, college professor and director of public schools, a private special education school and an education collaborative.

Ms. Lucci directs NESCA’s consultation services to public and private schools, colleges and universities, businesses and community agencies. She also provides psychoeducational counseling directly to students and parents. Ms. Lucci’s clinical interests include mind-body practices, positive psychology, and the use of technology and biofeedback devices in the instruction of social and emotional learning, especially as they apply to neurodiverse individuals.

 

To book a consultation with Ms. Lucci or one of our many expert neuropsychologists, complete NESCA’s online intake form. Indicate whether you are seeking an “evaluation” or “consultation” and your preferred clinician/consultant in the referral line.

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.