Articles & Trainings

Diagnosis, Assessment, and Treatment

A day-long virtual training for mental health professionals 

September 14 | September 18 | September 21, 2020

8:30 am – 4:00 pm 

About the Training 

This interactive virtual training will help clinicians develop skills and knowledge in the basics of working with clients with eating disorders. The training will cover diagnosis, assessment, factors that contribute to the development of eating disorders, and relevant treatment modalities. Though virtual, this training will include ample time for case studies and questions and answers.

FEE: FREE for Health Affiliates Maine Affiliates; $30 for non-affiliates

Register for September 14 Session. 
Register for September 18 Session. 
Register for September 21 Session. 
 

About the Presenter 

Sarah Carnahan graduated from The University of Maine at Farmington with a BA in Women’s Studies, and a minor in Psychology. After graduation, she attended Ohio State University, where she received an MA in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and a Master’s in Clinical Social Work. While at OSU, Sarah also taught courses in the Women’s Studies department and completed an internship in the counseling center. She completed additional training working with clients with eating disorders at The Center for Balanced Living in Columbus, before returning to Maine in 2013. In addition to her work as a HAM affiliate, Sarah is a full-time mental health counselor at UMaine Farmington, and a board member of the Eating Disorders Association of Maine.

Sign Up To Receive Our Latest Blog Posts!

Learn more tips on living well and understanding mental illness. Help to end the stigma, and hear inspiring stories of recovery. Sign up here!

Social media was created for a sense of community—and now, more than ever, we all need interaction with other humans, even if it is over the internet. Through social media, we are able to find like-minded people all over the world and easily interact with them, learn from them, and be friends with them. In fact, 75% of all internet users are on social media. These users are spending 2.5 hours daily on an average of seven different social network accounts. We use social media to connect with friends and family during these (physically) socially distanced times, but is it making us unhappy?

Short answer: yes. Some studies are showing that teens and young adults are reporting higher rates of depression than those who spend less time online, rising from 13-66 percent.1 However, studies are showing a correlation, not a causation between social media usage and our mental health. Because it changes and evolves so quickly, and the history of social media is so short, not enough studies on the topic have been conducted. Therefore, long term scientific effects are not yet known. Below are some effects people have reported from using social media frequently:

Perceived isolation Feeling FOMO (fear of missing out) when we scroll through friend’s accounts. Thinking “Why didn’t they invite me?” when constantly looking at the activities and lives of other people online.

Lowered self-esteem Constantly comparing our lives with those of our friends, celebrities, and influencers with the personas that they display online. “Facebook envy” has been on the rise and is a recognized term by health professionals.

Less healthy activity Not leaving enough time for exercise and outdoor activity. Always having phones at the ready while at the gym, running, or otherwise focused on the activity. Exercise is necessary for both mental and physical health.

Disrupted concentration Attention spans are shorter than ever, and now more than ever we’re completely distracted. We crave the dopamine hit from notifications, “likes,” and comments from our social media apps. This instant gratification is “addicting without being satisfying.”2 according to Dr. Alexandra Hamlet of the Child Mind Institute.

Sleep deprivation The blue light from our device screens discourages melatonin production making it difficult to fall asleep each night. Being anxious, envious or otherwise distracted is also keeping us from getting enough sleep. Proper sleep is critical for mental health.

Making memories Not being present in the moment. Always trying to get the “perfect” photo or looking at the “perfect” photos of others. When we look back on our lives, we should have authentic memories that we can cherish and not forgotten photos and “likes.”

Comparison culture is toxic and pervasive on social media and shows us in real time how we’re keeping up (or not keeping up) with others. We look at celebrity and influencer profiles that have the “perfect” aesthetic and we compare them to our own hair, makeup, physique, vacations, jobs, homes—our entire lives. Jerry Bubrick, PhD, is a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute in New York City. He states that “the more we use social media, the less we think about being in the present moment.”3

On the other hand, the human connection aspect of social media makes us feel included, heard and that we belong. Human connection is essential because it encourages compassion and empathy for others which the world needs more of right now. For anyone that finds socializing in-person to be difficult, social media can be that link to human interaction. For instance, those with anxiety disorders, Asperger’s, or physical disabilities rely on social media to feel connected to others.

How can we continue to use social media without harming our mental health? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Designate specific times for social media usage and for non-social media times (e.g. phone-free Fridays)
  • Stay physically active! This helps your body and your brain stay
  • Model behavior for your kids. If the rule is no phones at the dinner table, mean it!
  • Be mindful of how you really feel online. Do certain people, pages, or posts make you feel bad about yourself? Unfollow them
  • Taking a hiatus from social media can help you reconnect with yourself, your family and your
  • Refrain from social media 1-3 hours before your
  • Seek a professional if you’re feeling signs of depression or if you’ve noticed any severe changes in your mood or daily

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources: psycom.net, pewresearch.org, blog.hootsuite.com, psychologytoday.com Caroline Miller, Does Social Media Cause Depression? New York: Child Mind Institute, 2020 https://childmind.org/article/is-social-media-use-causing-depression/

1 Caroline Miller, Does Social Media Cause Depression? New York: Child Mind Institute, 2020 https://childmind.org/article/is-social-media-use-causing-depression/

Sign Up To Receive Our Latest Blog Posts!

Learn more tips on living well and understanding mental illness. Help to end the stigma, and hear inspiring stories of recovery. Sign up here!

What are boundaries?

There are two types of boundaries that you should create for yourself: external and internal. External boundaries are guidelines that determine how you allow others to behave towards you. Internal boundaries maintain balance, exhibit self-discipline and allow you to manage your time, thoughts, emotions and behavior. Both types are meant for your protection and well-being and should be based on your values.

Where to implement boundaries

Healthy boundaries should exist in all aspects of your life. Consider the following areas:

Physical: applies to your personal space, privacy and your body. This includes sexual boundaries and determine the what, where, when, how and with whom of sexual activity.
Possessions: determines whether or not you lend or give away personal belongings.
Spiritual: relates to your beliefs and experiences with God, a higher power, nature, etc.
Mental: relates to your thoughts, values and opinions.
Emotional: applies to your emotions, feelings and behaviors.

Do I need boundaries?

Yes, everyone needs boundaries for good mental health. If you’re able to take accountability for your feelings and actions, especially as they relate to other people’s feelings and actions, it’s a sign that you have strong internal boundaries. If you often feel resentment, anger, anxiety or feel taken advantage of it could indicate weak external boundaries and that you’re consistently being pushed past your own limits and values.

In order to set boundaries for yourself, you need to know what they are. These are determined by your core values. Are you unsure of what your values are? Now is the perfect time for self-reflection. Tune into your feelings, your past experiences and how you want to show up in the world. What matters most to you? What are you unwilling to compromise on? Use meditation, prayer, journaling or being in nature to allow for a space of self-awareness. These realizations may not all come immediately. That’s okay—have patience and continue showing up for yourself.

Why set personal boundaries?

Creating, setting and following through with personal boundaries will help maintain your mental health. Boundaries can also help you grow, save your emotional and mental energy, and act as a form of self-care.

How to set boundaries

Making boundaries for yourself can be difficult to do at first, but it shows that you take responsibility for your mental health. Try the following:

  • Look to your core values
  • Follow your instincts
  • Be assertive and consistent
  • Learn to say “no”
  • Communicate clearly
  • Start small
  • Seek support if needed

Being consistent with implementing external and internal boundaries will increase your self-esteem, conserve emotional energy, and create more independence in your life. Once you’ve made boundaries known in your life, it’s natural for people to test them. Don’t falter. We all have different values and boundaries and we all deserve to have them respected. Honor your needs and make yourself the priority.

 

 

 

 

Sources: psychcentral.com; mindbodygreen.com; healthline.com

Sign Up To Receive Our Latest Blog Posts!

Learn more tips on living well and understanding mental illness. Help to end the stigma, and hear inspiring stories of recovery. Sign up here!

This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on May 21, 2020, by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine 

Question:  Our 11-year old daughter overheard my husband and I discussing finances and is asking some tough questions. My husband was furloughed from his job and we don’t know when he will be back. Unemployment is helping but is nowhere near the same amount he was making. There is also uncertainty around my job and I am fearful I could get laid off soon. As it is, my hours are reduced. Obviously, we have been worried and our daughter overheard some of those worries. How do we discuss this in an honest way while keeping her concerns at bay?

Answer:  These are indeed tough times and are indeed difficult for so many people. Financial insecurity and uncertainty is an all-consuming problem. You are managing a lot. I truly hope everything with your job and finances improve.

It is very important to know that your daughter is watching you and listening to you always. Just in your day-to-day parenting, you are modeling and teaching your daughter about life—the good and the not so good. Our desire to shelter our children from things which are difficult and uncertain is not always the best plan. Right now, in the loving protection of her family, she can experience adversity while you and your husband show her healthy ways to cope by problem-solving together and maintaining optimism. 

At the same time, certain conversations and differences between parents should be taken out of the view and earshot of their children. Young children are just beginning to make correct judgments and can often misread circumstances. For example, she might one day hear the two of you arguing and mistakenly think you are going to get a divorce. Children also take the blame for discord between parents that they don’t understand. This can be very detrimental to their self-esteem and creates unnecessary anxiety. In those cases when your daughter overhears a difficult discussion, take time to give her reassurance that you are handling it.

I like your desire to want to discuss it with your daughter, in an honest way, while keeping her concerns at bay. Tell your daughter that life is not always easy, and that sometimes there are a lot of problems at once. It’s like when the car is driving on a smooth road and suddenly there are bumps and potholes. These are difficult times, but difficult times often pass and the road smooths out again. Reassure her that you and her father are working together to find ways that will make the situation better. This is a parent problem to solve and you are taking steps to do that.

 

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine.

Sign Up To Receive Our Latest Blog Posts!

Learn more tips on living well and understanding mental illness. Help to end the stigma, and hear inspiring stories of recovery. Sign up here!

This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on June 15, 2020, by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine. 

Question:  My 19-year-old just finished his first year in college–remotely most of this last semester, of course. He suffers from depression and anxiety and the change in being back home, schooling remotely (with dropping grades), and not seeing his friends regularly has his depression and anxiety creeping up. He pulls a lot of all-nighters and insists it’s the only way to stay connected to friends after the “school day.” I don’t think the lack of sleep helps. Since he is officially an adult, I don’t feel like I have a lot of say. How can I approach him in a place of love and help?

Answer:  You are asking how to share your concern, and maybe guidance, without resistance on the part of your son. You answered your question yourself; you approach him from a place of love and help. At 19 he still needs your caring influence. It sounds like he needs it now more than ever. In my view, our kids never stop needing us, it is just the way they need us that grows and changes. Whenever any of our loved ones suffer from an episode of mental or emotional distress, it is a signal that help may be needed, no matter what age. Decisions or lack of decisions they make for themselves may not be in their best interest. There are times we may have to temporarily step in, in a more assertive way, to make decisions for them. Keeping them safe is the primary concern.

Here are some things to try to open him up so he can hear what you are saying.

Schedule the discussion:  “I would like to set aside some time later this afternoon to talk about all the challenges you are faced with right now.” It is like a road sign that says “Rest stop ahead”. It helps lay the groundwork for him to hear what you have to say. 

Recognize his discomfort:  “I have realized that you are not yourself lately, and who could blame you, with things being awful right now.” He probably can’t argue with that.

Share your feelings:  “I feel really concerned when I see your depression and anxiety creeping up. It is very apparent. I know it must be hard for you. I would feel happier if we could talk about a plan so you can start feeling better.” This will change the focus to you, which might be more comfortable for him.

Do your homework:  Have some reputable sites available to refer to regarding the discussion of anxiety and depression. Ask him to agree to also visit these sites on his own. You are right about the lack of sleep. One of the first things addressed in the treatment of depression is clearing up the sleep issue.

Be prepared to get help.  If your son has been treated before for the issues with depression and anxiety, it is definitely time for a check-up. Connecting with a counselor may be a key in helping him face the uncertainty and make decisions. At this age, it is good to encourage him to solve this with a counselor, which fits better in his developmental task of growing independent of you.

Allow him to choose:  If you can get him to agree to get counseling assistance, have him read about individual counselors on agency websites or on the Psychology Today website. He should pick one that feels like a good fit. Many counselors provide telehealth services and/or in-person sessions.

Don’t hesitate to get help: There are rare occasions when a loved one is so depressed or ill that they are a threat to themselves or someone else. In these serious times, you might need to make tough decisions about getting help for your loved one without their consent, by taking them to the emergency department or by calling 911 for assistance. Know that they will be angry, but after getting help are most often understanding of your action. 

These uncertain times are tough on us all, but especially for young high school graduates and college students.  Your son is fortunate to have a parent like you looking out for him.

Note to parents:  Students in their first year of college sometimes struggle with adapting. Leaving home for college is a transitional leap for which some students are unprepared emotionally.  Living away from home, having a roommate, experimenting with substance use, and the independent learning expectations can be overwhelming for some. A year back home, with counseling help, and perhaps a job can be all they need to successfully try again.

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine. 

 

Sign Up To Receive Our Latest Blog Posts!

Learn more tips on living well and understanding mental illness. Help to end the stigma, and hear inspiring stories of recovery. Sign up here!

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is caused by experiencing or witnessing an event such as an injury, death, war or combat, natural disaster, abuse or assault. Trauma is not rare—it’s estimated that 70% of Americans of all ages, genders, and ethnicities go through at least one trauma in their lifetime.

While not every trauma will result in PTSD, a traumatic event actually changes the cognition in the brain causing a person to continuously release stress hormones and always be on high alert. Constant, high stress and other symptoms of PTSD can have a negative impact on mental, physical and emotional health.

PTSD vs. Stress and ASD

A PTSD diagnosis is not the same as daily stress or Acute Stress Disorder (ASD). Daily stress is a normal part of life and something we all navigate in our own way. PTSD can develop if ASD (whether professionally diagnosed or not) wasn’t properly resolved or the person didn’t have access to appropriate coping tools. A PTSD diagnosis can occur months or years after a distressing event.

Acute Stress Disorder is usually diagnosed immediately after a traumatic event and can last for days or several weeks; however, it usually resolves naturally with healthy coping strategies or with counseling. If left untreated, ASD can develop into PTSD. This can lead to other serious conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, or substance abuse.

The symptoms of ASD and PTSD are quite similar, but duration and timing of the diagnosis sets them apart. Signs and symptoms can include

  • Irritability or anger
  • depression or deep sadness
  • intense stress or anxiety
  • nightmares and trouble sleeping
  • feeling isolated
  • troubles controlling or expressing emotions
  • problems trusting others
  • difficulty maintaining relationships
  • flashbacks, pervasive negative thoughts and memories

 

 

Can PTSD be treated?

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is highly beneficial to those working through PTSD. Talk therapy helps to bring up feelings, memories and emotions associated with the traumatic event so that proper processing and management can occur. Some individuals will take medication in conjunction with talk therapy and/or group counseling.

In addition to counseling and medication, here are some examples of healthy coping strategies for living a content, fulfilled life.

Physical Health: By exercising, eating and sleeping well, and avoiding drugs and alcohol, you can relieve feelings of intense stress. Research shows that by setting goals and being consistent with your workout routine you can reduces stress.

Emotional Health: Practicing mindfulness, meditation or prayer keeps your mind in the moment. These practices allow for you to acknowledge feelings or memories and then “let them go.” Starting small with one or two minutes at a time can help limit stress, anxiety, depression and increase feelings of being grounded and present.

Community connections: Spending time with others especially understanding loved ones and people in a support group can help with feelings of isolation, avoidance or wanting to shut down.

Counseling: A professional counselor offers a comfortable, judgement-free safe space so that you can process your thoughts, feelings and memories in a healthy way. Be kind and patient with yourself. Consistent appointments allow for progress in your recovery.

Journaling: Writing your thoughts, feelings and memories rather than ignoring them or pushing them away allows you to work through them and also help to identify any triggers you may have. Remember that recognizing and processing emotions is a form of strength.

Be honest: If you’re ready, tell your loved ones that you’re living with PTSD—it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Maintain healthy boundaries and communication within your relationships can aid in your recovery.

Educate yourself: By learning about PTSD, it can help you and your loved ones better relate to one another. Let your loved ones know that even just listening to you and your experiences can helpful and is appreciated.

We all struggle at times, but help is here. If you’re unable to express your thoughts, feelings or have trouble with daily functions, consider reaching out to a friend or a healthcare professional.

Sign Up To Receive Our Latest Blog Posts!

Learn more tips on living well and understanding mental illness. Help to end the stigma, and hear inspiring stories of recovery. Sign up here!

This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on May 21, 2020, by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

Question:  Phew. I am having a hard enough time getting through remote schooling with my kids these past months and now I am hearing concerns that kids may not be back in school this fall or, if they are, they will be wearing masks, distancing, and maybe even going only a few days a week. My kids want to be back to school in the fall. They are hearing the rumors too. They are asking questions. How do I address these with them–not knowing what the new school year will bring? I don’t want to say they will be back when they may not be. I also don’t want to have them fearing the worst all summer. What’s the best way to approach this uncertainty?

Answer: Although our children think we do, we do not have any control over what will happen in the future. We cannot make it all better or promise that life will return to normal. Uncertainty is hard for all of us. Take heart.  Although this is a very difficult experience, there are real-life lessons here for all of our kids, which will serve them well throughout adulthood. Remember the saying, “It is not the number of times you get knocked down that is important, it the number of times you get back up.”  Life is full of uncertainty and change. Helping your kids learn to accept this with grace (as much as that is possible in children) is so important.  

Here is what might help: 

Offer HOPE: Let your kids know that it is the job of the schools, communities and our government to figure out how to get the students back to school safely. Many people are working on it. It may look different, but a plan will be made. They will soon know what it will look like, and together you will all work on making it work.

Offer VALIDATION: We know that being with friends is a really important part of school. Acknowledge for them that you understand it is hard not to know, and that it is also hard for you. Encourage them to talk about their fears and worries. Talk about this together. This is a way to validate what they are feeling and that you are hearing them, you understand and are feeling it, too. This amazingly lightens the mood.

REFRAME: If you can, reframe the way they, and you, are thinking about this. They are experiencing something extraordinary right now. We are all learning more about science, technology, our interconnectedness and our own ability to be resilient. Because of this pandemic, they are going to be part of a generation that takes big leaps forward in their ability to problem-solve and adapt. As horrible as this virus has been, we have learned so much about ourselves. Encourage them to think about what they are missing and why is it important to them. It can offer a new appreciation.

REDIRECT: Encourage them to take another path in action and thinking. When the worries start to take over, have them focus just on today—what can make today a good day, like building a fairy house or making things from found objects, for example. Check out websites for these kinds of activities together. Foster their compassion. Focusing on the needs of others and getting out of our own heads is the best way to feel better (packing boxes at a food bank, walking the neighbor’s dog, saving the Earth by picking up litter or planting a tree, or reaching out to Facetime with a grandparent).

Try this “formula” I have given you (hope, validation, reframe, and redirect). Hopefully, you will soon have clearer answers to give. Try this on yourself, too. 

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine.

Sign Up To Receive Our Latest Blog Posts!

Learn more tips on living well and understanding mental illness. Help to end the stigma, and hear inspiring stories of recovery. Sign up here!

This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on May 14th, 2020 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote brings me comfort when I am restless and sleepless over my worries. You can think of it anytime your mind is troubled before sleep; it might be especially helpful now. We have lots to be concerned about, as we are now weeks into the Coronavirus shutdown, with uncertain ends in sight. We worry about our loved ones, our country, our businesses and jobs, finances, and daily food. Some parents are suddenly in the role of schoolteachers to their children, on top of their many other work and home responsibilities. Even when experiencing a job loss at this time, some have had to spend many hours of navigating to access benefits—a job in itself!  

It is important to understand that worries and anxiety are about the future “what ifs.” Learning to sort out which of your thoughts really deserve your attention and which are simply creating more anxiety, staying in the moment, addressing those things that are right in front of you–helps keep worries manageable.  

Here are the lessons found in Emerson’s quote:

1.  Finish each day and be done with it.

Reliving it doesn’t change anything. Berating yourself over things done, and not done, is useless spinning. Allow yourself to close the book on today and stop reviewing the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” moments, or the things you cannot control. In the morning, they will not seem as bad.  

2.  You have done what you could.

Celebrate your full day, as weird and uncommon it may seem, and the things you were able to do, big and small. Try to remember a moment from the beginning of the day. You managed, and you got through it.  Perhaps your day had some moments of fun. Perhaps you reassured your child, reached out to a friend, or cooked a good dinner–good for you. Perhaps you shuffled the kids outside, and took a moment for yourself—good for you. Right now it is about putting one foot in front of the other and navigating what changes come—one day at a time. Today, you have done what you could.  

3.  Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in. Forget them as soon as you can.

We are not perfect. We make mistakes, forget things, get tired or even angry. Give yourself permission to have a moment, or many moments of struggle. Some days run smoothly, others are just, well, not smooth. It is human to have to keep trying, and right now there is a lot being asked of you. If you are trying under these unusual circumstances, then you are doing the best you can. So try not to be the first one to cast judgment on yourself. 

4.  Tomorrow is a new day.

Thank goodness for that! We get a new chance every day. This virus will end or at least we will find a way to manage it. The world will keep spinning and there will be many new days.

5.  You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered by your old nonsense.  

That’s the pledge. After sleep, the worries that keep us up can seem trivial in the morning light. Living in these strange conditions created by the virus has given us gifts and lessons in the midst of our concerns. So tomorrow, you will wake up anew, ready to embrace what may be a really great adventure in life.

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine.

Sign Up To Receive Our Latest Blog Posts!

Learn more tips on living well and understanding mental illness. Help to end the stigma, and hear inspiring stories of recovery. Sign up here!

Studies have shown that a daily routine alleviates feelings of stress, anxiety and other mental health issues. It’s also proven beneficial for those working through addiction, insomnia, and helps give structure to children who may otherwise experience anxiety. Though our daily lives have been upended in recent weeks, this can be a powerful time to establish our priorities through routine.

Here are some reasons why and how routine can enhance your mental wellbeing, as well as some examples to try in your own life.

Ease stress: With so many decisions to be made each day, it can become overwhelming quickly. Having the majority of daily decisions planned in advance can lessen stress. It’s okay to start small with one decision and work up to planning more. Try: Put together your outfit the night before or pack tonight’s leftover dinner as an ready-to-grab lunch for tomorrow.

Provide structure: Children aren’t the only ones who benefit from structure. Even as adults, we perform better when we expect predictable and controllable moments. When our day has a rhythm, we feel grounded and focused. Try: Write down all the things that you need to do during your day. Once these priorities are met, sprinkle in what you want to do.

Better coping skills: When most of our daily tasks are repetitive and expected, it gives us the confidence to make it through our day. This will help to establish better coping skills for life’s curveballs. Try: Allow yourself time each day to process your emotions. Write in a journal, meditate, or express your feelings creatively.  

Forms habits: It takes 21 days to form a habit—why not use a routine as practice? The more consistent you are, the better established your routine will become. Try: Go to bed and wake up at the same times each day. A proper sleep schedule reduces stress, anxiety and gives you the energy to power through your day.

 

Your routine should represent your lifestyle and meet your responsibilities. This means that if waking up at 4am is impossible for you, don’t make yourself do it. Set yourself up for success! With this being said, a daily routine should never feel like a prison. Leave room for flexibility and the opportunity to adapt to life’s changes.

We all rely on each other for support and encouragement. If you are experiencing severe stress or are having difficulty performing day-to-day tasks reach out to a loved one or professional.

 

Sign Up To Receive Our Latest Blog Posts!

Learn more tips on living well and understanding mental illness. Help to end the stigma, and hear inspiring stories of recovery. Sign up here!

This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on April 27th, 2020 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine

We don’t like things that are not clear and understandable. We don’t like feeling uncertain and lacking control; uncertainty can lead to feelings of insecurity. In the best of times, parenting is about helping kids feel secure, so they grow up hopeful and happy. This is tough to do when parents themselves are struggling during this time.

Although we all are troubled by living with the virus threat, parents and caregivers have the important job of helping their children and teens understand and follow the current health restrictions, while keeping them hopeful and secure.

Some parents recently shared with me how they have tried to help their children deal with the changes caused by the Coronavirus restrictions. Their comments may be helpful to you:

Explain the Coronavirus in age-appropriate ways. For young ones, answer what is asked. Don’t supply more information than they need. Limit their exposure to media coverage. They will be curious and need to process it in pieces. One grandmother, a social worker, assured, “Don’t be alarmed if their play includes the virus. This is normal and a good way for you to identify their concerns.”

Welcome the expression of emotion. Expressing emotion is healthy at any age. If it is safe to do so, don’t try to quiet it, squash it or make it better. Let it come out in a variety of ways. There is time to talk it over after the expressing is done. Sometimes we rush to “fix it” but really we just need to listen. When it was announced the school would not reopen, one mom of a high school senior watched her daughter grieve the loss of her senior year activities—prom, graduation and such. Her daughter wrote a 3-page paper called “Senior Year Ruined” she sent it to her English teacher, who then reached out to talk with her. This expressing of how she felt ended up helping both him and her. This daughter is also learning to bake, and decorated her cake creation with “R.I.P. (Rest in Peace) Senior Year.”

Try to have a routine. A regular school day runs on routine. Children get comfortable with this. Establish a schedule that your child can follow at least on weekdays. One mom who has a high school junior says, “We set up a daily schedule. Each day is a different subject for at least 1 hour, she completes that first, and then 1 hour of something educational but fun. She also has every other day for either practicing dancing or Girl Scout “homework”.

Let kids participate in the planning of the day. This may limit battles over assignments that they resist and gives them some power. Remember, having some control helps kids feel secure.

Knowing what to expect also helps kids feel secure. Another mom said, “Setting-up projects the night before is really important to support the kids with knowing what is expected, and to assist with the day flowing, especially since I’m working from home.” She also found it is important to “keep the routine when co-parenting with kids going back and forth between two homes. When possible, mirror what is happening in both homes.”

Acknowledge the ‘now’ and focus on the future. A mom of a 16-year-old said that “cancellations of outdoor events have been a challenge to explain”—her son likes helping in the pit crew at races, and it is an important activity for him. “We simply talk with him, and acknowledge all of the feelings he has around it. We then talk about plans once the quarantine is lifted.” Another grandmother has a “post-virus bucket list” full of all the things the family will do when the cautions are lifted.

Security for your kids comes from some consistent routines, allowing the normal and healthy expression of emotions, giving them some power to make decisions, a positive future focus, and above all else, love. We are all in this together. We will find our way.

 

Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children, and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com and click on “Referrals.” 

Sign Up To Receive Our Latest Blog Posts!

Learn more tips on living well and understanding mental illness. Help to end the stigma, and hear inspiring stories of recovery. Sign up here!

Coronavirus/COVID-19 Alert - The health and safety of our affiliates, staff, case managers, and clients is our top priority. Our COVID-19 Updates page provides current information about how we are working together to help keep our communities safe. Learn More

We continue to accept referrals and are providing all services via Telehealth. If you or someone you know is in need of mental health services, please click here for online referral. Referral

+