Articles & Trainings

Katelyn Baxter-Musser

Working Successfully with Personality Disorders in Therapy

Deepen your knowledge of personality disorders with this one-day virtual training. We’ll discuss diagnosis, myths, biases, tools, and more.

About this Event

Working Successfully with Personality Disorders in Therapy: Decreasing Myths, Increasing Clinical Effectiveness and Tools to Use in Your Practice

Clients who present with personality disorders can be some of the most difficult and challenging clients that mental health providers engage with. These clients present with disrupted interpersonal relationships, self-harming and suicidal crises, difficulties regulating their emotions and an unstable sense of self. Without the right skills and support clinicians often find themselves feeling exhausted and frustrated when working with these diagnoses. Through this training clinicians will deepen their knowledge of personality disorders and discuss differential diagnoses. Clinicians will be able to challenge their preconceived notions and myths regarding this population. Clinicians will be provided with tools to enhance and freshen their skills set when working with personality disorders in a therapeutic setting.

Objectives

  • Understand myths, biases and judgments related to personality disorders
  • Review diagnostic criteria, differential diagnosis and co-occurring disorders
  • Learn therapeutic interventions to use in clinical practice to increase therapeutic effectiveness and client engagement
  • Develop an understanding of healthy and effective boundaries to set in an effort to decrease therapist burn-out

Outline

8:30 What do we know about personality disorders: Exploring biases and myths
9:00 Understanding personality disorders in clinical practice
10:15 Break
10:30 Evidence-based treatments and personality disorders
11:15 Exploring ways to implement clinical interventions
12:00 Lunch Break
1:00 Exploring ways to implement clinical interventions
2:15 Break
2:30 Case Conceptualization
3:00 Maintaining professional boundaries: decreasing therapist burnout and practicing self-care
4:00 Conclusion

About the Presenter

Katelyn Baxter-Musser is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice in Gorham. There she provides individual therapy, couples and family therapy and consultation to mental health professionals.

Katelyn has been in the field for over ten years and has worked in a variety of different roles including as a case manager, child and family therapist, trauma therapist and clinical coordinator. Prior to being in private practice Katelyn has worked for several agencies as well as Native American reservations.

In her private practice Katelyn specializes in working with domestic violence, abuse, trauma, PTSD, depression, anxiety, grief and relationship issues, dissociative disorders and personality disorders. Katelyn is a Certified Dialectical Behavior Therapist and a Certified EMDR therapist. Katelyn is trained in a variety of therapeutic modalities including DBT, EMDR, CBT, mindfulness and motivational interviewing.

She sits on the EMDRIA Standards and Training Committee and is the co-regional coordinator for the EMDR Southern Maine Regional Network.

Register Online:
Fri, March 12, 2021 – 8:30am – 4:00pm
Fri, March 19, 2021 – 8:30am – 4:00pm

 

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Have you found yourself at the beginning of a new year with good intentions and hefty resolutions, but ended up falling off track? We’ve all been there! Although it can seem discouraging, it is possible to make changes for the better. By having a growth mindset, you know that with time and effort you can stay on track with your goals and grow mentally and emotionally. Use these simple affirmations to start 2021 off confidently.

I failed vs. I learn from my mistakes. When we change the narrative from failure to growth, we’re more receptive to learning from our mistakes rather than fearing making them in the first place.

I can do it alone vs. I ask for help when I need it. There is a difference between independence and being self-sufficient and knowing when you need support. The key is learning when and to whom you should ask for help.

I’m not as good/successful/purposeful as they are vs. I focus on my own progress. Comparison has its place, but it can also be very dangerous to your mental health and your personal growth. When you focus on your progress, you learn more about yourself and what you need and want in your journey.

I’m not smart enough for that vs. I can do hard things. Strong, confident, and mentally healthy people know that a challenge can be a good thing. When you overcome difficult situations, you become more confident and resilient—and ready for the next challenge.

I’ll never understand it vs. I haven’t figured it out yet. When we have limiting thoughts, we are indeed limiting ourselves. It’s okay if something is taking you time to figure out or work through. Life is full of those situations! Giving yourself the empathy and understanding that certain things take time to work through will be beneficial in your growth.

I’m just not meant for this vs. I am on the right track. When you focus on yourself, learn from mistakes, and give yourself time to work through things, you’ll come to know yourself better on a deeper level. Your intuition is powerful and can guide you through many of life’s uncertainties especially if you’re equipped to learn to listen to it. It’s just as important to realize when you’re not on the right track and to change course until you know that you are.

It’s important to recognize that the way you communicate with yourself is just as important as the rest of your emotional and mental health. With societal pressures, family pressures, and internal pressures, it’s crucial that we heal the relationship we have with ourselves in order for us to truly progress and thrive.

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This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on December 17, 2020, by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine.  

Question: I am a bi-sexual woman married to a woman. My daughter will be starting school next year and we hope to do some preschool programs this year if possible. My daughter has a biological dad she doesn’t see often. I know questions will arise for her during the school years on having two moms. My wife and I have open conversations with our daughter and want to help prepare her for questions and how she can best handle them. Do you have suggestions on where to start?

Answer: It is so good that you are thinking ahead to help your daughter with complicated moments. We can’t be there all the time, but sometimes we can give our children tools to help them navigate. 

Like all the kinds of diversity that she will experience, your family situation of having two moms sets her apart. Diversity is about differences. The place to start is by helping her embrace all the beauty of diversity, the positive benefits diversity brings to our world. Has she tried foods like Chinese, Thai, or Italian? Does she know anyone whose family immigrated to our country? Does she have questions about how Somali women dress? Does she have questions about disabled (I like “otherly-abled”) people? Talking openly about these groups as well as gay and lesbian families will provide comfort, confidence, and information when these subjects come up at school.

Here is an example of just one of the many conversations to broaden her world of acceptance. When you enter a store together with automatic doors, explain that the doors were made that way so someone using a wheelchair can roll in easily and that the slopes at the end of a sidewalk mean everyone can get around easily. This normalizes these differences and shows how everyone is important. 

Having toys and books that celebrate differences, including having two moms, can be helpful and can provide opportunities for larger conversations. I’ve included some examples and urge you to explore the many fine options:

  • Matching Game: I Never Forget a Face by the EEBOO Corporation
  • Crayons: People Color Crayons by Lake Shore Learning
  • Book: Mommy, Mama and Me by Leslea Newman
  • Book: My Two Moms and Me by Michael Joosten
  • Book: Love Makes a Family by Sophia Beer

In your open conversations with her, talk about why she has two moms. Without knowing what questions will arise, increasing her knowledge and understanding of your relationship may give her the words she needs. In language, a child will understand, explain about love (“People are like peanut butter and jelly, meant to be together”). Let her know that sometimes people might not understand because they’ve never seen it before, and sometimes people are unkind about things they don’t understand. Invite her to always bring their questions to you and to talk about how she’s feeling.

Some families have two parents of different races. Some only have one parent, while some are being raised by grandparents. Your daughter is different. Your daughter is special—she has two moms.  

 

 

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

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

Question:  My son is 11 and has some significant behavioral issues including outbursts of anger, aggression, and yelling. We have been working hard with him on coping skills when he feels angry and this has helped some. He has been asking for a dog for a couple of years now. My husband thinks it could be a good time to get one and have our son work toward a dog by showing good behavior. I’m on the fence. Though I think it could be a motivator, I worry he would digress after we got a dog. If I am honest, I also am a little wary that he could show aggression toward the dog. He does now with my husband and me. I would appreciate some advice.

Answer: Both you and your husband have made some good points. Under any circumstances, adding a pet to the home takes a family commitment of time, energy, money, and affection. This is a long-term commitment that can pay off in lots of shared joy. 

A dog could be very therapeutic for your son. Pets love and accept us, without judgment, unconditionally; they are reliable and loyal. Pets can teach children many great and valuable lessons. Your son can learn responsibility to provide for the dog’s needs of food, water, exercise, play, and grooming in turn for endless love and affection. Pets help a child experience caring for another, a lifelong lesson in empathy.   

Before any of this happens, however, you and your husband need to come together to work on communication and an agreement about behavioral expectations, rewards, and consequences, both for current behavior and for future behavior with the dog. A dog is not going to immediately solve the aggressive behaviors you are currently seeing. As you alluded to, some children can turn that aggression on a pet. This can be serious and needs professional attention if it occurs.

Anger, aggression, and yelling is concerning, and it is also concerning that he is acting out aggressively toward you. Finding the source of his anger and frustration is extremely important. As with the check engine light on the dashboard of your car, his behavior is signaling unmet needs or underlying emotions that he is having trouble expressing in healthy ways. I am glad that you are helping him with coping skills. Seeking counseling for your son can be another way to help him learn to express and deal with distress before it turns aggressive. A counselor can also help him talk about what might be making him angry and afraid (fear is often covered up by anger). Family counseling can also give you and your husband tools to help you help your son so he can grow up happy with his dog.

 

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

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Q: Why do you do this work?
A: I do this work because I wish I had had someone who helped me when my child was young. It is hard to parent a child who struggles, it can be isolating. To have had someone who understood the types of things that I was going through would have been invaluable. As a parent of a child with special needs, I did not have a lot of natural supports, and I want to be able to fill this need for others.

Q: What can you bring to clients/families that is unique to you?
A: I can bring a different level of empathy because I have been there before. It’s one thing to give advice and connect someone with resources, but it’s another thing altogether to be able to connect based on shared experience. I can also give a behind the scenes look at services and options because I have accessed many of them myself.

“I can bring a different level of empathy because I have been there before.” – Julie P.

Q: What is one thing you want clients/families to know about your role?
A: My role is unique. I can do more to support and educate parents from a perspective of someone who has faced similar challenges. As a parent, the struggle continues even though my daughter is now over 18 years old.

Q: What are some examples of things you would do with a client/family during a typical meeting?
A: I am lucky to be able to do a wide variety of things in this role. For example, I spend a lot of time helping families prepare for meetings like IEPs or Family Team Meetings. I help families learn what to expect when interacting with the different systems like the courts, Child Protective Services, schools, and evaluations.

I role model parenting skills and can help talk parents through difficult situations. I also work with families to explore and encourage self-care. As caregivers, we are always thinking about what is best for those in our care and sometimes we forget to care for ourselves. I even practice self-care with clients by having a cup of tea and just talking.

Q: What is your favorite part about being in this role?
A: By far my favorite part is seeing those lightbulb moments. Those moments of growth when a person makes a new connection or sees a new truth. I love when a caregiver is able to see the impact of their behaviors and can successfully use their own behaviors and reactions to change the child’s behavior.

Q: If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
A: I am a bit of a sci-fi geek so I would love to be able to travel to other dimensions. It would be interesting to see and learn to understand a world in a different way.

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Q: Why do you do this work?
A: I like that there is more of an overall wellness focus in this role and that treatment is focused on the whole person. I like that this program specifically looks at mental and physical health as intertwined because, as a nurse, I know that those two parts of us influence one another. Behind that is my passion for supporting those working through mental health needs. I enjoy teaching people and speaking to people in down-to-earth terms. Sometimes medical jargon gets overwhelming, and I like being the bridge that can help someone understand their medical needs.

Q: What can you bring to clients/families that is unique to your role?
A: We all have different life experiences and I can bring mine to the table. I have worked in medical and mental health settings, so I am able to work within both. I can help clients navigate the healthcare system in a way that supports their mental health growth.

“I feel like I’ve done my best work when a client can hang up the phone feeling
rejuvenated and ready to tackle their goals.”
– Deb M.

Q: What is one thing you want clients/families to know about your role?
A: I am here to support them. I can be a resource at any stage of someone’s wellness journey. I can be an educator, a helper, or a sounding board. I follow the client’s lead and help them make wellness goals that make sense for them.

Q: What are some examples of things you would do with a client/family during a typical meeting?
A: There are many things that I can do to help. For example, I often talk with clients about their wellness goals and provide them with education to help them reach those goals. This might be talking about strategies for accessing activities to be more active or discussing small changes they can make to their daily routine to live a healthier lifestyle.

I can also help them understand what their doctors are saying. If a client is told they have a new diagnosis or need a procedure and they don’t know what it means, they can call me, and I can help explain it to them. I can’t diagnose or treat the client, but I can help them understand. I can also provide emotional support. For example, if someone is trying to quit smoking and is having a hard day, I want them to give me a call so we can talk through the craving.

Q: What is your favorite part about being in this role?
A: I love to communicate and interact with clients. I enjoy being a motivator and helping clients figure out how to meet their goals. I feel like I’ve done my best work when a client can hang up the phone feeling rejuvenated and ready to tackle their goals.

Q: If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
A: I would have a magic wand that could take away all of people’s worries and could fix everything. In this field, we always want to be able to help and a magic wand would come in handy. It would also be great to be able to do the dishes with one quick swish of a wand!

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Q: Why do you do this work?
A: I like doing peer support and I’m good at it. I like that you can just connect with people as people and you don’t have to worry about a lot of paperwork or be constantly assessing the person.

Q: What can you bring to clients/families that is unique to you?
A: I can help clients by coming at them from the perspective of someone who has had my own personal experience as a client receiving services. I can connect with a person because I know a little bit about what it’s like to be in their shoes and can share my own experiences with them.

“I am non-judgmental. To me, we are just two people getting to know and support each other.”– Carly M.

Q: What is one thing you want clients/families to know about you?
A: I am non-judgmental. I look at every new person as a clean slate. I don’t know anything about them, and they don’t know anything about me. To me, we are just two people getting to know and support each other.

Q: What is one thing you want clients/families to know about your role?
A: I am not a clinical provider. I can connect with you as you are and have no clinical agenda. I can meet you where you are and walk you through the work you will do in services.

Q: What are some examples of things you would do with a client/family during a typical meeting?
A: What I do with a client varies based on what the client and I decide we want to do. Sometimes I will meet with a client somewhere like a park or coffee shop and we just talk. Other times I might do an activity with them in the community that we both enjoy like a walk or visiting a new place.

Q: What is your favorite part about being in this role?
A: I like being able to meet people where they are and help them feel supported. I like making clients feel like they are not alone. I like meeting new people and getting to know them and their stories.

Q: If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
A: The power to fix problems at the source. Figuring out what is happening and why can be hard and life would be so much easier if we could just know where it comes from.

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This class meets the requirements for Domain 3, Ethics & Professional Conduct, of the Maine MHRT/Community curriculum.

  • Tickets: $275
  • Location: Online Event
  • Presented By: Marylena Chaisson, LCSW & Mary Gagnon, LMFT
  • Registration: Register Online
  • Refund Policy: Refunds up to 7 days before event

About this Event

In this training, we will study the knowledge and application of ethics and professional conduct in your work as an MHRT/C.

The following knowledge competencies will be reviewed:

Knowledge Competencies for Domain 3: Ethics and Professional Conduct

Demonstrate a standard of professionalism and integrity in practice, and confront and resolve ethical challenges by seeking appropriate collaboration and consultation.

  1. Explain ethics and how to conduct practice within the context of a professional code of ethics. Give examples of inappropriate behavior. Define appropriate contexts for dual relationships and how to set and maintain clear, professional, and culturally sensitive boundaries.
  2. Relate the intersection of ethics with state and federal laws.
  3. Define confidentiality requirements and how to communicate these policies to staff, consumers, families, guardians, and others.
  4. Describe the evolution of HIPAA and what constitutes protected health information, including communication requirements within the context of health information technology.
  5. Explain how to secure informed consent from a consumer.
  6. Maintain sound documentation that reflects an adherence to individualized, person-centered care.
  7. Explain a provider’s ethical responsibility to empower consumers.
  8. Identify a number of strategies, consistent with professional practice, to empower consumers.
  9. Collaborate and interact effectively with community members and other professionals.
  10. Describe what it means to be an effective contributing member of an interdisciplinary team.
  11. Model appropriate professional behavior at all times, apply ethical guidelines and demonstrate the effective use of supervision.
  12. Practice using a supervisory relationship to resolve ethical challenges.
  13. Summarize the importance of evaluating the effectiveness of personal practice.
  14. Describe how individuals working in the behavioral health field practice self-care. Utilize supervision effectively to prevent compassion fatigue and vicarious traumatization.

Course Expectations

1. Attendance:

Students must attend each day of class (5 units) and receive an 80% or above on the final exam to earn a certificate of completion. If a student misses a day, they are responsible for arranging to attend the next offering of the missed unit, with either the same trainer or another organization. Unit 5 is optional for students with the required academic preparation.

2. Make‐up work:

Students must attend all five units (or four with a related degree) as stated above, and complete and submit any missed assignments.

3. Class size:

The standardized MHRT/C curricula are interactive. The recommendation is that classes have no fewer than six (6) participants and no more than 20.

4. Class participation guidelines:

  1. Students will arrive on time and stay until the end of the unit (no early dismissals).
  2. Students will demonstrate respect for others. This means:
    • Listening completely before interjecting.
    • Use appropriate pronouns. Respect the pronouns individuals choose for themselves.
    • Use person‐first language. This language puts the individual before the disability. For example, “a person with schizophrenia” or “an individual with bipolar” as opposed to “a schizophrenic” or “bipolar woman” or “mentally ill man.”
    • Use first person language, such as “I” messages. [For example, “I didn’t understand his response to my question” as opposed to “He overreacted to my question.”] This allows students to take responsibility for their feelings and experiences rather than blame them on someone else.
    • Keep personal reflections and stories shared in class confidential.
  3. Cell phone use: Cell phones should be placed on vibrate or silenced at all times during the class. Cell phone calls must be taken in the hallway or in private.
  4. This course requires demonstration of knowledge and skills, therefore, students are expected to participate in all activities.

5. Course evaluations

Participants will receive a link to complete an online evaluation the last day of their training. The Muskie School Center for Learning will summarize the evaluations and share results with the trainers and DHHS/OBH.

About the Presenters:

Marylena Chaisson, LCSW, is a clinical supervisor in the case management program at Health Affiliates Maine. She is a clinical mental health counselor (LCPC) who has worked in rural, under-resourced Maine communities for nearly 20 years both in agency and private practice settings. She also enjoys her work as a Disaster Mental Health contracted trainer for the state of Maine’s Disaster Behavioral Health Team, part of the Maine CDC and Maine DHHS.

Mary Gagnon, LMFT, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the Training and Clinical Development Specialist for Health Affiliates Maine. Mary has worked in private practice as well as a variety of community mental health settings throughout her career. Her most recent work at Health Affiliates Maine includes oversight of clinicians in private practice and development and facilitation of trainings for schools and conferences throughout the state. She is a certified trainer for Domains 1, 2, and 3 for the MHRT/C Non-Academic Curriculum.

Register Online

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We hear a lot about gratitude and its effects but what does it really mean and how can it help us? Gratitude is showing appreciation for what we have and the goodness in our lives. It’s giving thanks on a substantial level—it’s not superficial. An old French proverb claims that “gratitude is the heart’s memory.” By recognizing what we’re grateful for we can move forward in life with renewed spirit, optimism, and a higher quality of life. 

What are some benefits of gratitude?

Improved mood: those who focus on positive things tend to be happier overall. Surround yourself with like-minded people for a contagious gratitude side effect. It’s a win-win!  

Increased optimism: when we are happier, we also have a more positive outlook on life for ourselves and our loved ones. With a positive outlook, we’re more encouraged to take (healthy) risks and pursue our dreams.

Enhanced social bonds:when we show our appreciation for close friends and family, it not only makes them feel cherished, it reminds us of the connections we have in our lives.

Improved physical health: typically, when we’re happier and more positive about our lives, we take better care of our physical health. Exercise and eating healthier result in better sleep, more energy, decreased blood pressure, and a healthier immune system.

Connects us to a higher power: When we recognize that the source of gratitude goodness comes from outside of ourselves, it helps to connect us to other people, nature, and a higher power.

Elevates empathy: when we’re more gracious and practice showing thanks, it increases our sensitivity to others and motivates us to naturally support one another.

Better self-esteem: when we change our perspective and see the good in life, it can reduce our need for social comparisons. In today’s culture, this is highly beneficial for our wellbeing. 

Increased mental strength: studies show that gratitude can help us overcome trauma, grief and anxiety and can increase our resilience in tough situations.

Better mental health: showing gratitude can help to reduce toxic emotions like anger, resentment or jealousy. We feel more inclined to take care of ourselves by going to check-ups and attending therapy when needed. 

How can I show gratitude?

There are many ways to show appreciation in your life. For instance, we can show gratitude by reliving joyful past memories, appreciating the present and not taking it for granted, and by maintaining a hopeful attitude when looking towards our future. Here are a few approaches to try:  

·       Every day write down something that went well and why.

·       Take breathing breaks and envision something positive.

·       Create a new family ritual by explaining how gratitude makes you feel.

·       Give out genuine compliments—even if you don’t know the person.

·       Volunteer in your community.

·       Perform random acts of kindness.

·       Shift your perspective. Recognize how much you’ve grown in your life. 

·       Slow down and try to be more present.

·       Notice things and relish in the small (and big) things that bring you joy. 

 

With an unstable and stressful year nearly behind us and the holiday season approaching, it’s important now more than ever to adopt a gratitude practice into your life. Remember that it’s okay and normal to not feel grateful all the time. But when those feelings do arise, amplify your optimistic outlook and appreciation of others, and help cultivate a community of gracious, grateful people.

Sources: nationwidechildrens.org, health.harvard.edu, psyhcologytoday.com, livescience.com

 

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

Question:  My parents live nearby but we have not seen them much in the previous months because of COVID and my dad having significant risk factors. We have had a few outdoor, socially-distant gatherings but with winter coming, that will be hard. I know my parents are upset not seeing the kids as much. My mom told me recently she feels like she is depressed. I feel guilty. Do you have ideas to keep the connection strong in a safe way?

Answer: I wish I had an easy answer. This is a dilemma that has impacted so many, in so many ways. Before giving any thoughts on the subject, I remind everyone to follow CDC guidelines for mask-wearing (yes, around the grandparents), social distancing (six or more feet apart) and handwashing and using hand sanitizer often. As the cold weather approaches and the time when families gather for the holidays, we must be extra vigilant. Recent surges across the country have been attributed to people gathering again in the home and being more relaxed about the virus.

We all have to get creative. My family has had to get creative for this same reason. Our visits are shorter and may get even shorter as the cold and darkness descend on us. We visit in the outdoors around a fire pit for about 2 hours once a week. Our chairs are six feet apart. Parents are in charge of watching if the little ones get too close to grandparents, and gently reminding grandparents when they don’t resist the impulse to snuggle and hug. My family has also driven to a park to meet at a halfway point to see other dear ones who live miles away. We try to be outside as much as possible. Taking walks, visiting a garden, and reading stories all can be outside activities, and soon sledding and snowman-making will be in the mix. 

The cold weather season may mean rethinking cold-weather gear, just to be able to spend more time together. Dressing in layers can extend the time together.

It is difficult for your mom. Isolation and loneliness can really contribute to feelings of depression. The dark months of winter can be a problem under normal circumstances for many people, especially older adults. When the separation caused by the pandemic is added to the mix, it can become very serious for some. Your children are a major joy for her. If there are ways you can help her remain engaged, it will help her mood. Throughout the fall and winter, try to ramp up the engagement and involvement with the grandparents in any safe activity. If you notice increasing depression, substance abuse and/or overall withdrawal from activities they once enjoyed in your mom or other older adults for whom you care, help them get connected to their physician for an exam. The requirements of the pandemic are not your fault, don’t take on guilt. Just do the best you can under extraordinary circumstances. Allow time for your mom to talk and recognize the feelings she is expressing. She will feel better just being heard.

Here are some helpful ideas and suggestions for you and your children:

  • Video chats with guessing games, jokes, and stories both from her and from your children can keep them connected.  
  • Letter writing is a way of connecting, as well as sending hand-drawn pictures back and forth. I know one grandmother that draws a bird and sends it to her grandson, then they learn about the bird together. The next time, the grandson draws a bird and sends it off to his grandmother.
  • Holiday fun: Have an outdoor family Halloween parade. Grandparents can dress up too and provide some warm cider and cookies. Looking at the neighborhood lights together during the Christmas and Hanukkah season can be done together using separate cars and speakerphones so everyone enjoys the experience of it together. It’s all about memory-making, pandemic or not!
  • Another holiday idea is to have grandparents watching the assembling of gingerbread houses. Having an activity going on allows children to become comfortable with the online presence of their grandparents.
  • There are easy recipes online that you can use to make handmade ornaments of the kids’ handprints.
  • Grandparents can be online watching the assembly of a craft they furnished.
  • Car picnics or visits with cars parked side-by-side—windows open with heat ramped up!  
  • Grandparents can get a kick out of watching a little one get absorbed in a storybook being read by a parent. Be sure to set the screen so that expressions can be seen. 
  • Daily short video chats can become a normal part of life. Each child has a different attention span so enjoy brief chats more often.
  • If grandparents are close, have the child participate in baking and dropping off cookies.
  • In the same vein, grandparents can assist parents by cooking one meal and dropping it off.  
  • A daily chess match or crossword puzzle between grandparents and older children can be fun. Using Zoom, they can play Pictionary, Scattergories, Mad Libs, and other games.  
  • Send your parents pictures as often as possible. This keeps them aware of what the kids are doing and communicates to them that you are thinking about them. It is a bit more costly, but if possible, give a gift of a digital picture frame that shuffles through multiple pictures which you load on. This way they can see your children going about their daily lives. Very fun!
  • If it is in their nature, ask the grandparent to sing a bedtime lullaby to a smaller child. Sometimes there are special good night songs in families.

We all are eagerly awaiting normal times. We are learning a lot about how important connection can be. I wish you the best in helping your parents during this time.

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

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