Back to School

Posted by Alyson Jones.

August is winding down and summer holidays are almost over. This is the time of year when many parents see their children’s anxiety increase. It is difficult to let go of summer and deal with the reality of school again. Here are some tips for parents on how to support your children in dealing with the back to school anxiety.

1. Remember the basics. Regular sleep, exercise and nutritious food go a long way in decreasing anxiety. The return to structure and predictability can be done in a way that eases everyone back into the routine. Little by little over the next week get the structure back in place. Get the younger children to bed earlier, and up earlier in the morning. For your teenage children discuss the importance of structure. Be clear on your expectations, but do not arbitrarily make all of the decisions. Listen to them and get them involved in establishing a progressive return to routine.

2. Discuss change. Use this transitional time as an opportunity to teach your children that change is natural, healthy and inevitable. It is OK to be sad when things change. The reality is that there is usually some loss associated with change, but there are gains as well. Change is only your enemy if you fight it. Have an honest conversation with your children about change and ask what they feel they might lose at the end of the summer, and what will they gain with the arrival of school year.

3. Anticipate your child’s anxiety. Let them know that it is natural to feel worried about the unknown and that anxiety is just part of life. It is natural to feel anxious about going back to school. We all feel anxious during a big transition – no matter what our age. Ask them if they are worried about any particular things and let them talk through it.

4. The antidote to anxiety is exposure – not avoidance! You can assist your children by working through anxiety rather than avoiding the things that are making us anxiety. In these times of “high anxiety” this an essential life lesson. We should not be trying to shield them from anxiety. Some simple deep breathing skills and mindfulness techniques can help them work through the anxiety and build resiliency.

5. Focus on belonging. In a concrete manner you can help your children by exposing them to some of the things that are making them anxious. For younger children, a return to the school and a play in the playground can go a long way to decreasing anxiety. For older children, gathering their supplies and setting up their structures can help them accept that the summer is ending. It is also helpful for them to be reconnect with their peers. We all want to belong, and bringing back the sense of belonging to their school and with their peers helps your child feel a part of the community again.

6. Manage your own anxiety. I cannot stress enough how important this point is. Where we lead, children will follow. If you are anxious and stressed about the new school year, they will also be. Look for ways to take care of yourself first so that you are grounded and can guide them through the changes that are coming. Look for positive things, and keep your focus on the big picture.

7. Focus on connection. Fill your children up with “you” and the secure feelings that come when your child has your attention and feels your enjoyment of the relationship. Don’t rush through the family time and spend some one-on-one time with your child whenever you can. This can be done though simple things like a talk and walk, or a family barbecue. Be present and enjoy your child; nothing else will prepare them better for that school year that that!

Honouring Grief

Posted by Salley-Ann Ross.
Honouring Grief

Grieving and comprehending this with supported individuals whether they live independently or within their family is an area that is complicated and has no clear definition.  In essence there is no clear “way” to grieve. Grieving a loss coupled with cognitive challenges can take  this life process to another dimension, requiring a different understanding and support. 

For caregivers, we may feel helpless and may revert to the following in order to protect our loved one.  The following are areas to avoid when a supported individual is grieving:

  • Overprotectiveness that creates a reluctance to upset individuals
  • Limiting exposure or discussion of death, loss and grief
  • Putting a time limit on their grief.  There is no time table for grieving.  Over time an individual’s painful and emotional reactions lessen and returns to their former levels of functioning
  • Grief never goes away, and there may be surges  of this emerging especially during holiday or anniversary times in which the deceased is deeply missed
  • There is no sequence or stages within the grieving process (Worden 2010)
  • The process is individual

(Doody, 2014)

There needs to be consideration that supported individuals may experience grief with what seems like distorted limited emotional reaction.  However, within everyone there is a spiritual element, that encompasses not only our outward reaction, such as crying or anger, but inwardly.  It is known that when there is a significant loss there is sense of longing, or an emptiness that is experienced. There needs to be honour and dignity when a supported individual also experiences a loss in their lives, without the assumption that they will not notice or it just goes away. Avoiding these assumptions, paying close attention to behavioral changes, giving space and supporting resources that can aid in this process for as long as they need will be integral to their unique self- expression, healing and moving through their loss.

Reference:

Doody,O. (2014) Loss & Grief Within Intellectual Disability. Research Gate: https://www.research/gate/net.publication/288010367

Want A Real Life? Then Let Go Of The Fairytale

Posted by Alyson Jones.

In previous blogs I wrote about the first two principles of the MORE Philosophy which are movement and opportunity. Hand in hand with these previous principles is the concept of reality. To achieve the outcome of an exceptional life you need to live in the real world! Living in a fantasy will only yield a fantasy, and frankly that is pretty unfulfilling.

A fairytale may be pretty and perfect and have a “happy” ending, but it is not real. It is insubstantial and nothing else truly exists there but your imagination. It is healthy to have fantasies, to use your imagination to create visions for the future, but those exceptional moments that offer opportunity and require movement, only exist in the real world.

How Fear Can Bring Opportunity

Posted by Alyson Jones.

As a Therapist I have developed a philosophy by which I practice therapy, and live my life. This is the MORE philosophy. MORE is a frame by which we can authentically move through the opportunities life presents, and experience exceptional outcomes. In a previous article I discussed how the M in MORE stood for movement, and how this was essential for our mental health.

This article is focused on the second principle of MORE which is “Opportunity.” Life is filled with opportunity, and the best guides to choosing your opportunities are your curiosity and your fear. To understand this further we are going to look at the life of Brianne, but first we need to gain a better understanding that opportunity does not always look the way we think it should. The key is to stay curious in life and you will have some interesting experiences.

Keeping The Divorce Talk Honest Can Help Your Kids Heal Faster

Posted by Alyson Jones.

In my last blog I wrote about three difficult and important conversations to have with your children. The topics I covered were sex, drugs and bullying.

That blog highlighted how these challenging conversations can actually bring your family closer, as difficult conversations can be opportunities for growth. Talking to your children about these difficult topics can demonstrate to them that you have their best interests at heart, and that they can come to you for information and guidance.