Heading Back To School Already!

I can’t believe it’s already time for kids to go back to school. Summer seemed so much longer when I was a kid (has the summer been shortened?)! One of the best ways to prepare your kids for starting school is by reading about school! There are some really good books out there so here are some to choose from.

My two personal favorites are Wimberly Worried and The Kissing Hand.  Both of these books touch on the anxiety kids can have about being away from a parent and making friends when they go to school.


Cover art of children's picture book First Grade Jitters Annabelle Swift KindergartnerBack to School with BetsyThe Berenstain Bears Go to SchoolBilly And The Big New SchoolChanges, Changes

Curious George Goes to SchoolThe Day the Teacher Went BananasDo You Want to Be My Friend? miniAmelia Bedelia's First Day of SchoolFirst Day, Hooray!Cover art of The Bully Blockers Club picture book for kids

Annabelle Swift KindergartnerFranklin Goes to SchoolFriends at SchoolFroggy Goes to SchoolI Love School!Kindergarten Rocks!The Kissing HandLook Out Kindergarten, Here I ComeMiss Bindergarten Gets Ready for KindergartenMom, It's My First Day of Kindergarten!My KindergartenWelcome to KindergartenWemberly WorriedWhen Kangaroo Goes To SchoolWhen You Go to KindergartenWill I Have a FriendI Am Too Absolutely Small for SchoolLittle SchoolFirst Grade Stinks!


PDF: Children’s Books About Starting School


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What You Should Know About Separation Anxiety- Guest Post

I was honored to be interviewed for one of my favorite mommy blogs, Sleeping Should Be Easy. With topics and advice for moms of babies and toddlers, I am a regular readers of SSBE, so when she contacted me to answer questions on separation anxiety, I was thrilled to do so!

Please check out the interview What You Should Know About Separation Anxiety!

You will find answers to important questions on a common topic for parents:

  • What exactly is separation anxiety?
  • Is there a specific age when separation anxiety begins, peeks, and ends?
  • Why does separation anxiety happen?
  • How can parents help ease the  child’s anxiety and help him or her feel comfortable without the parent?
  • Is there a better way to prevent separation anxiety, or a better way to prepare for it?
  • If a parent is concerned their child’s separation anxiety is extreme or lasting too long, when should she seek help from a professional?
  • What resources can you recommend?

Thank You Sleeping Should Be Easy  for the opportunity to join in an important discussion!

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Books by Topic for Children, Parents, and Mental Health Professionals

With this being a fairly new website, I have plenty of plans to upgrade and make it even more informative and fun! I recently updated the Books Section, under the Links, Books, and Other Tools tab of this site. Using my Goodreads account, you can brouse my selections by topic or by the reader (adult, child, or professional). You can then read summaries and reviews of the books. As always, please forward any suggestions my way and check back regularly as new books are added each week!


Abuse and Neglect


Adoption and Foster Care










Grief and Loss


Play Therapy



Teen Girl Issues





Being Prepared for Postpartum Emotions (of Mom AND Dad)

The birth of a baby is no small event and can trigger significant and sometimes long-lasting mood changes, in both the mother and father. I think everyone has heard of postpartum depression at one time or another. Millions of new mommies experience deep feelings of sadness or persistent anxiety after the birth of their baby, which medical explanations attribute to the rapid decline in hormone levels after the baby is born. Fathers can also experience significant mood changes, including depression and anxiety. After all, his life has undergone drastic changes as well.

With a little one soon to arrive and a toddler at my feet, I easily recall those weeks and months after my first child was born. I remember the powerful wave of emotions that flooded my body and mind.  In fact, even with all I knew about the postpartum mood changes, I was shocked at how powerful they could be that first week. The birth of a child, and especially the first, is supposed to be joyous. So how is it that I could feel even the slightest bit of sadness?

There are many factors that can lead to the postpartum blues:

* Hormones: This goes for mom and dad! Yes, even dad experiences changes in testosterone levels after a baby is born. Here is a link that may interest you.

* Fatigue: In case you didn’t know yet, new babies are exhausting! They feed every 2-3 hours and may even wake up between that time for a multitude of other needs.

* New Responsibility: Holding your new baby brings up floods of joy, as well as an “Oh my goodness, this is a big responsibility” kind of feeling.

* Financial Strains: Babies are expensive… and so are kids and teens and college students. The financial burdens of a new child are significant and long-term. This places a lot of stress on new parents.

* Social Changes: The days of care-free living are over and new parents often have to find new social circles to join. In addition, at least one of the parents may be making changes in their job status or putting off career aspirations.

* New Identity: Having a baby also means being called “mom” or “dad” and owning this new identity, and all that comes with it, can take some time to adjust.

* Relationship Changes: A couple will need to make some adjustments to their relationship. With so much time and energy going to a baby, it will be important that they find creative ways to maintain a healthy relationship and find time to spend together.

With all these factor in place, it’s natural for new parents to experience changes in their emotions, from the good to the bad. No person is the same, so they can even come at varying times and in varying forms and severity.

So how do you deal with these emotional changes and when do you seek help?

* First of all, learn the symptoms of depression before baby arrives- sadness, tear fullness, hopelessness, lack of joy, fatigue, lack of motivation, changes in eating habits, and sometimes emotional numbness. Knowing these symptoms can help you to identify depression in yourself and in others if they should come. The Mayo Clinic website has more detailed information on these symptoms.

* Attempt to identify some of the greatest area of need for you at the moment. Sleep? Food? Time out of the house?

* Seek support from loved ones, such as your significant other, relatives, and friends. Be sure to let them know you really need help and if you know how they can help, communicate that clearly. Don’t expect people to guess what you need.

* Talk to your doctor a) if the depression and anxiety has been going on for more than 6 weeks, b) if you feel the emotions are too much to handle, c) your symptoms continue to get more severe, or d) anytime you are unsure what to do or what you are experiencing.

Please keep in mind, changes in emotions are normal for everyone. Having a baby is a wonderful, joyous occasion, but also a huge change! There is no shame in what you are experiencing and I can guarantee you that another mother or father out that has experienced something similar. Seek the advice of your doctor anytime you have concern.

Related links:

Mayo Clinic

Baby Center

Postpartum Men

Men’s Health article

Article: Men’s Testosterone Levels After Baby is Born

Childhood 101: 7 Reasons Not to Leave the Hospital with Baby Blues


The Postpartum Survival Guide

Postpartum Depression for Dummies

Postpartum Depression and Child Development

The Postpartum Husband: Practical Solutions for Living with Postpartum Depression

Goodtherapy.org: Number 1 Complication at Birth

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Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici
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Commitment, Success, Then JOY

A Lesson From One Child’s Triumph Over Anxiety

“Joy Is the Feeling of Grinning Inside”

This quote by Melba Colgrove is a good description of how I felt today when I took note of a client’s success in therapy. Of all the topics I have to discuss, I felt it most appropriate to share a success story with you. What I hope you take from this example, is that success does come! Those who find success in the journey to self-improvement, whether they are children, teens, or adults, endure many challenges and sometimes harsh moments of self-reflection, to reach that place of “grinning inside.”

Therapy is not much different than committing to an exercise routine. In fact, they are very much the same as each are forms of self-improvement- one of the body and the other of the mind. Each require you to make a decision, a commitment for change and self-improvement. Each are more successful with the guidance from a professional. And each have both painful, challenging moments, as well as personally revealing and rewarding moments.

Joy in Her New Confidence

My success story today is about a young client. I will call her Shelly for the purpose of this post. Shelly is an elementary age child who came to me to address her severe anxiety, which was coupled with a very low self-esteem and poor self-confidence. Shelly had difficulty in her school and other activities because she would become so emotional and anxious over the tasks presented to her. In Shelly’s therapy sessions, I allowed her to direct her play and make the decisions about what she called the toys and how she played with them. In other words, I gave Shelly a safe environment to test herself and encouraged her to develop confidence in her capabilities. At first, this was so difficult for her. She wanted me to identify every toy and tell her where to go and became visibly upset when I encouraged her to decide. Shelly would also attempt puzzles and other mastery type toys, only to give up and express defeat when they became a challenge to her.

Fast forward about 9 months. In recent sessions, Shelly has come into the playroom with eagerness and excitement. She looks around the room and makes a quick decision on what she wants to play with or complete. Sometimes, she chooses more mastery toys and makes sure I watch her as she attempts the challenge over and over again until she is satisfied. Other times, she will choose an art activity in which she will decide what to paint and what colors to use (yes, she sought my approval on her colors at first!). Shelly will also choose to play with dolls or house items, such as the kitchen. I am no longer needed to name the items for her, as she will confidently tell me she is serving cake and pizza! This new self-confidence has also revealed her excellent ability to problem solve. I was so excited to observe her solve several of her own “problems” today during play by coming up with unique solutions and actively seeking items in the room that may help her with her dilemma. When she needed my help, she would appropriately ask for it. What a treat to witness!

So, if you are in therapy, have a child in therapy, or are a professional, you know that feeling like nothing you do makes a difference or that progress is moving so very slow. I’m here to remind you today that success can be possible. Please join me in this joyous feeling today as we now all know of one little girl will enjoy a fuller and healthier life!

by Mother Theresa

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.

Life is beauty, admire it.

Life is a dream, realize it.

Life is a challenge, meet it.

Life is a duty, complete it.

Life is a game, play it.

Life is a promise, fulfill it.

Life is sorrow, overcome it.

Life is a song, sing it.

Life is a struggle, accept it.

Life is a tragedy, confront it.

Life is an adventure, dare it.

Life is luck, make it.

Life is too precious, do not destroy it.

Life is life, fight for it.

For more inspirational poems or quotes, check out Affirmations-for-Success.com and athorsden.com.

For more information on counseling services, click here.

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A Therapist’s Tote of Techniques: Deep Breathing!

When I mentioned I was going to be sharing my “best therapeutic techniques,” I imagine some of you were surprised when I said deep breathing would be first on my list to share. This should tell you how important it is to know good breathing technique and how often it is used in treating all kinds of symptoms- anxiety, anger, nervousness, worry, and so on. (By the way, this image is meant to get you in the mood to relax!)

I’ll also share some fun ways to teach kids about deep breathing exercises!

5 Reasons to Practice Deep Breathing

  1. It’s FREE! There is no cost for you to learn or apply this technique and it is an excellent tool for stress and anger management.
  2. It tricks your body into thinking it is in a calm state (as opposed to the fight or flight state).When we are in a state of stress, our bodies are in a “fight or flight” response, meaning it is reacting as if there is a threat present and we either need to stay and fight the threat or run away. When our bodies are in this state, our heart rate rises and our breathing becomes rapid and shallow.
  3. Deep Breathing gives you energy! The act of breathing deeply helps to deliver nutrient rich oxygen throughout your body.
  4. This delivery of oxygen also helps to eliminate waist in the body an help maintain healthy cells.
  5. It’s a useful technique to have ready when the time comes. Practice now so when you are feeling angry, anxious, etc., you will be prepared to use it!

When To Use Deep Breathing

  • If you are nervous about an important meeting, public speaking engagement, or personal situation you are about to face.
  • When you feel angry. You may notice your heart beating faster, face getting hot, and an urge to react to the source of your anger.
  • If you are feeling an urge to do something you don’t want to do.
  • Anytime you feel the need to relax and de-stress.

Teaching about deep breathing proved to be difficult without a visual aid. Unfortunately, I could not find one that I was comfortable adding to my blog. So… for your entertainment, I made a short video of my own to teach you proper deep breathing technique (no laughing!).

I have found that teaching kids about deep breathing is similar to teaching them other things… you have to trick them into thinking they are not learning or practicing something important! Here are some fun activities to help your kids learn about deep breathing. Once they learn the skill, teach them how and when to apply deep breathing.
Blowing a Pinwheel
Such a simple, yet fun toy! Who doesn’t love to watch the pinwheel colors mix together as it spins?
  1. Have your child take a deep breath (remind them slow and deep)
  2. Hold their breath for 2 seconds
  3. Release their breath by blowing the pinwheel
  4. Repeat 2 more times

Candle and Flower

  1. Gather together a candle (you can light it if you feel your child is old enough) and a flower
  2. Starting with the flower, have your child take a deep breath (remind them slow and deep) through their nose as if they are smelling the flower
  3. When they are breathing in the flower, have them pretend they are breathing in good, calm feelings
  4. Hold their breath for 2 seconds
  5. Release their breath by slowly blowing out the candle, pretending that they are breathing out the angry, yucky feelings
  6. Repeat 2 more times

References: www.webmd.com www.kidsrelaxation.com http://www.stress-and-relaxation.com/deep-breathing.html

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