Archive of ‘General’ category

Five Activities to do at Home with Children: Quarantine Edition

As I sit here writing this, I can’t help but to reflect on how much has changed in the past month.  The roles we play, our social connection and sense of community, our work, and so much more. 

Navigating through this time with kids can be hard; they have had massive shifts in their lives. Parents have had to expand their role to fill that of teacher, coach, guidance counselor, and many others.  Here are five activities that can be used at home (or in nature close to home) to help your children process big feelings in relation to this chaotic time and promote self-regulation skills. 

Emotions Charades 

This is a fun game to play with kiddos to promote mindfulness of the body.  Mindfulness is pulling ourselves into the present moment. When explaining to children use simple, succinct definitions such as “mindfulness is noticing what is happening right now.”  Mindfulness practices can help improve focus and concentration, as well as increase self-regulation skills.  

In emotions charades, either purchase cards with faces depicting different emotions (these are great: https://www.playtherapywithcarmen.com/collections/focus-on-feelings/products/flash-cards-with-words-focus-on-feelings© ) or create your own cards with your children using art supplies.  Create faces that show anger, frustration, sadness, happiness and any emotion you can identify together!  Shuffle the cards and place them face down. One player then selects a card. The player will not only use their face, but their entire body, to act out the emotion silently to other player, who is trying to guess what it is.  

This game helps create awareness of how the body reacts to different emotions.  You can even ask questions to further process the emotion. For example, if your child is acting out fear, you can ask them questions like “what helps you to feel safe? What does safety feel/look like to you?” 

Yoga/Animal Yoga

Yoga practices have been shown to help children with mind-body awareness, self-regulation, improved self-esteem and social-emotional learning (just to name a few!).  Cosmic Kids Yoga has an entire YouTube channel with tons of great videos geared towards children of all ages and interests (including Frozen, Pokemon and Harry Potter!).  You can access it here: https://www.youtube.com/user/CosmicKidsYoga

If videos aren’t your thing, here is a link to free animal yoga pose cards: https://wyqualitycounts.org/animal-yoga-for-kids/

Aromatherapy Playdoh

According to recent research, repetitive, rhythmic movement (think rocking, swinging or kneading playdoh) and sensory experiences calm the part of our brain that signals danger.  Creating aromatherapy playdoh together is a great way to integrate both movement and sensory input to promote feelings of relaxation.  

Recipe: https://www.healthline.com/health/diy-aromatherapy-playdough-for-stress – 7

You can also make multiple batches with different smells! 

  • Lavender can help to promote relaxation and sleep
  • Citrus scents energize
  • Pine can reduce stress
  • Peppermint can improve focus/concentration (be cautious with peppermint-since it is a stronger scent, I would reduce the amount needed by half)

Nature Mindfulness Activity

As mentioned before, mindfulness is anchoring ourselves to the present moment.   The Child Mind Institute shares that spending time in nature benefits children by building confidence, promoting creativity, and reducing stress.  This activity combines both nature and mindfulness to create a sensory experience that can promote regulation and tranquility. 

This nature mindfulness activity does not require any materials, just you, your child and thirty uninterrupted minutes outside in nature!  Walk through a park, yard, greenbelt or any other natural landscape and identify: 

  • Five things you can see
  • Four things you can hear
  • Three things you can feel
  • Two things you can smell
  • One thing you can taste (for safety considerations, I recommend only pointing out something you can eat or bring rosemary/mint or any other safe herb from home with you to reduce risk of eating something harmful!

If your child needs a visual, you can print out a scavenger hunt sheet with things for them to find in nature.  Here are some great resources: 

Safe Place Guided Imagery and Art Project

This is a confusing time for everyone, including children.  Having strong feelings of fear, sadness and anger are understandable and to be expected! This activity helps children to imagine a safe place they can visualize when they begin to feel scared.  

Start by reading or playing a safe place guided imagery script, like one of these: 

Following the guided imagery set out art supplies (whatever you have at home-markers, crayons, colored pencils, paint, paper).  Invite your child to create their safe place on paper. They can draw a literal picture of it or create an abstract piece utilizing color/shapes to express how safety feels to them.  Allow them to choose a meaningful place to keep their piece. If they do not wish to share their safe place, that is totally ok!  

Art is a useful tool to express other emotions as well.  It can provide words and language around emotion that is difficult to verbalize out loud.   Children can use color and shapes to show and externalize how big feelings including fear, anxiety, sadness and joy feel to them.  

Perhaps the most important tool to remember during this time is relationship.  Connection and attachment are healing in themselves. In order to fully be present with your child, we must also do things that nurture our soul as well.  I invite you to take a moment to yourself right now by placing one hand on your heart, the other on your stomach and feel your breath. Quietly extend compassion to yourself in this chaotic time.

You are seen, you are heard.  We are all doing the best we can.  

Presley Pacholick, LCSW
By: Presley Pacholick, LCSW

Creating Healthy Boundaries

Growing up in collectivistic culture at home, boundaries were not a celebrated tool in my family. They were perceived to be selfish at times – unhelpful to the entire family unit. As I grew older, I came to realize just how important healthy boundaries are – with family members, friends, coworkers – to maintain my overall well-being. 

What Are Healthy Boundaries?

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, boundaries are limits that define acceptable behavior. Healthy boundaries are those created to maintain physical, emotional, and mental well-being. 

How To Create Healthy Boundaries 

I do want to preface this section by saying that the examples are for educational purposes only – some of them may not apply to your experience or situation. If you are in an abusive relationship whether with a romantic partner, family member, or friend, setting a boundary can be dangerous – please seek help by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Please consult with a mental health professional to discuss what options may be most applicable or helpful for you! 

  1. Identify your boundaries: one of the most important things we can do for ourselves is recognize how we feel during certain situations. If you find yourself feeling:
  • Anxious when your mother is complaining about your father to you 
  • Annoyed when your partner invites friends over without consulting with you 
  • Angry when your child plays with the soccer ball indoors  

it may be time to set some healthy boundaries in place. Sometimes utilizing a feelings wheel can help us gain better insight into our feelings and needs.

  1. Communicate your boundaries: follow the “I-statements” method. Starting your statements with “I feel…” versus “You did…” takes judgement away, preventing the person you are speaking with from getting defensive or feeling attacked. Depending on who you are speaking with, it may be helpful to validate the other person’s feelings (can be an especially helpful tool when talking to your parents to show respect).  You do NOT need to “over explain” the reason for your boundary – your healthy boundaries are your right. 
  • “It sounds like you feel very hurt. I feel anxious and scared when you talk about dad to me like this. I love you and respect you and I cannot be here for you in this way.”
  • “I feel upset when you don’t ask me before inviting others to our home. I understand they are your friends, and I would appreciate knowing who is coming over to our home in advance.”
  • “I know you want to play with your soccer ball, and soccer balls are not for playing indoors. If you want to play, you have to play outside otherwise I will have to take your ball away.”
  1. Communicate consequences: if you find your boundaries have been crossed multiple times – it may be helpful to associate a consequence while communicating the boundary. A consequence is NOT a threat, but at times can look like an ultimatum – especially if you find yourself being mistreated constantly in a relationship, the consequence of breaking your boundary could be ending the relationship for your overall well-being.

Healthy Boundaries With Parents

“It sounds like you feel very hurt. I feel anxious and scared when you talk about dad to me like this. I love you and respect you and I cannot be here for you in this way.”

Boundaries with parents can be the most difficult sometimes – depending on your parents’ culture and your relationship with them. For myself, the example above brought up feelings of anxiety and fear of disappointment. Due to my parents’ collectivistic culture, when setting boundaries I found that it was helpful at times to avoid being in certain situations as to avoid offending them. For example, if following the scenario above, saying something like, “I can’t talk now I have to do some work that is due tonight!” 

Another important factor to name when setting boundaries with parents is the idea that we may feel guilty for not helping them. It is important to recognize and differentiate our role as a child and what responsibilities that entails and does not entail.

Healthy Boundaries With Partners

“I feel upset when you don’t ask me before inviting others to our home. I understand they are your friends, but I would appreciate knowing who is coming over to our home in advance.”

Boundaries with romantic partners are important to cultivate a strong, positive relationship versus cultivating contempt and resentment. With the couples I work with and even in my own relationship with my husband, I have found that it is easy to attack our partners by blaming them for their actions as opposed to understanding and communicating  how we feel as a result of their action. As shown in the example, I started it with “I feel” versus “Why did you invite them over?” Starting a question or statement with “you” or “why” immediately puts the other on the defensive.

Healthy Boundaries With Children

“I know you want to play with your soccer ball, and soccer balls are not for playing indoors. If you want to play, you have to play outside otherwise I will have to take your ball away.”

Setting boundaries with children may look like setting limits – validating what they are wanting to do, but being firm AND kind in establishing the limit and consequence of their behavior. To learn more about setting limits and boundaries read our posts about Positive Discipline or attend one of our workshops

It takes practice and time to create healthy boundaries. If you find that identifying your boundary, communicating it and the consequence of not following it are not working in your relationships, it may be beneficial to weigh the pros and cons of the relationship and decide if it is healthy for you. Wishing you all healthy, happy, and fulfilling relationships!

By: Sarah Shah, LPC-Intern supervised by Martha Pasiminio, LPC-S
Follow Sarah on Instagram!

Supporting Your Child During Test-Taking Season

With the upcoming STAR tests, AP exams, SATs, ACTs, and more— it’s no secret that school test-taking season is upon us. This time of year can be extremely stressful for the test taker (and the whole family!). Below, we’ll discuss some helpful tips for supporting your child during this busy testing season. 

Encourage Confidence

These tests can be challenging, but it’s nothing your kid or teen can’t handle! Encourage your test taker by helping them know their strengths and remaining confident in their abilities. Help them create an encouraging mantra they can say to themselves as a reminder when things get tough in the testing room. Send an encouraging note in their lunch, or give them a small trinket the morning of the test. Let your child know that you’re thinking of them and that you believe in them. 

Create a Routine 

Weeks before the test, brainstorm a realistic routine that will create consistency. Help your child figure out the best time to study, the best time to take a break, and the best time to ask for some support. Get as specific as possible, and get your child’s input when planning for bed time, snack breaks, and everything else that comes along with studying for a big test. 

Promote Sleep Hygiene 

Sleep hygiene becomes even more important during times of high stress or anxiety. Help your child create a realistic bedtime routine that will help them feel rested, calm, and capable on test day. Limit screen time before bed, and lead your child through a calming activity instead. You can even try some mindfulness meditation, yoga, or reading as a family. 

Help Ease Feelings of Anxiety 

Help your kiddo manage their test anxiety with mindfulness practices like deep breathing exercises or progressive muscle relaxation. These are tools we often use in therapy, and are even more effective when they are practiced with family members at home.  Validate that it’s completely normal to be anxious before a test and get their input on how you can help support them as they prepare. 

Celebrate!

Don’t forget to celebrate with your child or teen after the testing is complete! Congratulate your child on their accomplishment, and try to limit your questions about the actual test material. Trust that they did their best and that they will bring the test up if they want to talk about it more. Plan to go to their favorite restaurant or hang out with friends to celebrate.  Giving your child something to look forward to can give them the motivation they need to do their absolute best on the test.  

I hope these tips prove to be helpful for your family as we enter a potentially stressful season in their academic careers. With consistency, encouragement, and preparation, we can support our kiddos as they continue reaching their scholastic goals. 


Written by: Morgan Rupe, LPC-Intern supervised by Kirby Schroeder, LPS-S, LMFT-S

Follow Morgan & Rio on Instagram at @animalassistedtherapist
Check out the work Morgan & Rio are doing at http://AnimalAssistedTherapist.com


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