Tips to Keep Your Child Cautious Yet Calm During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This week one of our social workers, Rachel van Zevenbergen, shares some tips on how to teach children to be cautious while remaining calm during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are officially halfway through the year 2020, and we can all probably agree that it has been a very challenging year.  The COVID-19 pandemic has invited new fears and worries into our daily lives, and has had a significant impact on the mental health of many people. As we navigate this “new normal” and try to manage our own stress, anxiety and worry as adults, we need to make sure that we are also looking out for the mental well-being of our children. That being said, parents and mental health professionals have seen a noticeable uptick in anxiety and worry symptoms in children over the past several months. Between fears about the virus itself, along with social isolation, lack of physical activity, and plain boredom, many parents have witnessed their children struggling more than ever. It can be especially difficult because we do not always have the right words to comfort them, as this is an unprecedented time with information changing almost everyday.  

Below are some simple tips on how to help your child stay cautious yet calm during these trying times.

Limit exposure to COVID 19 news
First and foremost, I would suggest being very careful about your child’s exposure to media outlets, and limiting it as much as possible (depending on age and maturity level). As an adult, reading the latest headlines can be very panic-inducing. Now imagine how a child feels, who has a much more limited understanding of the world. Even if the news is on in the background, kids are very perceptive and may hear something that can really scare them. To take it a step further, it might be a good idea to mention to your childs’ friends parents that you are trying to keep things simple and brief when it comes to COVID information, and perhaps asking that they talk to their child about being sensitive to this. The last thing you need is for your child’s precious time with friends to set off a new spiral of panic.

Remind your child of the positives
Talk to your children about the positives. With so much doom and gloom surrounding us, it can be hard to find that sliver of hope. One important thing to note is that according to the World Health Organization, although children are just as susceptible to COVID, evidence to date suggests that they are less likely to get severe symptoms that require hospitalization  Additionally, a very high percentage of people who are young and in good health recover from COVID. Scientists all across the world are working very hard on a vaccine, and vaccine trials are already underway in the United States.

Use this opportunity to teach your child about good hygiene
This is also a great opportunity to have honest conversations about hygiene and good health. Some of these conversations can include the importance of hand washing, covering mouths and noses when sneezing or coughing, staying home when you feel sick, and respecting the personal space and boundaries of others. To make things a bit more fun, let your child order their own mask in a design they like, or have them decorate their own with stickers, pompoms or tye dye! You could even try adding a few drops of food coloring to your hand sanitizer.  Now could also be the perfect time to motivate your child to really kick that nail biting or thumb sucking habit! 

Stay connected
Social isolation and lack of structure and routine can have a negative impact on mental health and lead to feelings of loneliness, sadness and irritability. 2020 has brought the meaning of isolation to a whole new level, and finding ways to keep kids occupied and socialized has been a major challenge, especially for working parents. Phone calls, FaceTime, texting, a shared digital photo album with family, and even good old-fashioned snail mail are great ways to keep kids connected to friends and family. Now that Illinois is in Phase 4, we have gotten the green light to get together with others in small groups. Socially distant picnics, hanging in the backyard, or taking walks are a great way to get that face-to face contact while staying safe.

Practice Gratitude
There are many people who are being impacted by the pandemic that do not have a lot of resources or the luxury of staying home (I’m looking at you, essential workers!) This could be a perfect time to talk to children about gratitude and helping others. This can be as simple as making a list of things your child is grateful for, sending a letter or some artwork to a nursing home, donating supplies to shelters or underprivileged communities, or even hanging some art in the window to cheer up a passerby.

Keep up with therapy
Last but certainly not least, parents should try their very best to remain consistent with their child’s mental health treatment! Telehealth is a fantastic way to stay connected with your child’s counselor or social worker from the comfort of your own home. For kids who already struggle with anxiety, depression, conduct or mood disorders, it is imperative that he or she continue to get support.  Most insurance companies have already approved telehealth sessions, but it is always a good idea to double check with them to make sure this is a covered service!

NSPT offers services in the Chicagoland Area. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help!Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

How to Help Your Child Adjust to Summer During COVID 19

This week one of our Social Workers, Robyn White, offers advice for helping your child cope with changes to summer plans this year. 

As we navigate the summer months, many families are wondering what to tell their children amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Both parents and children face the uncertainty of what they will do this summer. Some children look forward to attending camp, some play sports, and others stay with extended family members. What will this summer look like, and how can families prepare to cope with these changes? Here are some tips on how to maintain some normalcy and manage stress during this unprecedented time.

Stick to Routines and Schedules

During times of uncertainty, it is important to create structure in the household so children can feel a sense of control over their environment. Parents can make a daily schedule for their children so they know what to expect. Depending on the child’s age and developmental ability, families can work together to create a picture or word schedule. Parents can encourage children who feel upset about missing camp to write a list of their favorite camp activities and add those to their summer agenda.

Make Time for Movement and Exercise

If there is one thing this pandemic has taught us, it is that children need to move. During the stay-at-home order, many families have more time to relax and spend quality time together, but there are fewer opportunities to move around. With limited movement, children are not releasing as many feel-good chemicals, called endorphins, which can exacerbate symptoms of ADHD, depression, and anxiety. When creating your children’s schedule, make sure to include movement and activity breaks. Feel free to ask your kids to share 10 indoor and outdoor activities to engage in, including: taking nature walks, going on bike rides, creating obstacle courses, playing sports, doing yoga, creating a treasure hunt, building a fort, gardening, playing hopscotch, or completing family projects.

Monitor Screen Time

One of parents’ main concerns while their children are in quarantine is the amount of time spent in front of screens. Whether children are playing video games, watching television shows, or texting friends, technology seems to be playing a center role in their lives. In serious cases, this can lead to internet addiction, preventing the child from developing key social and attentional milestones. To deal with this issue, parents can monitor and set limits on the amount of time their kids spend on their devices. A good rule of thumb is to limit children between the ages of 2 to 5 to one hour of monitored screen time per day and to increase that slowly by age. Parents can replace screen time with more enriching activities, such as: board games, puzzles, singing, cooking, reading books, or journaling about this time in history.

Utilize Virtual Support

Of course, parents are not superhuman and do not always have control over their children’s technology use. During this time, many children are required to join Zoom meetings and complete schoolwork on their tablets or iPads. Some sports teams and other extracurricular activities only have the option to meet over screens due to social distancing recommendations. Many children are yearning for more social connection during this time and can greatly benefit from virtually connecting with friends and family. So, families should choose their screen time wisely, and can use it to deepen relationships and model the importance of connection.

Stay Positive

As we know, children mimic their parents’ behaviors and will assuredly pick up on their attitudes and belief systems. Although this is a difficult time with many trials and tribulations, parents can model a positive attitude by highlighting the good things that can come out of this difficult experience. Children and parents can talk about gratitude and think of aspects of life they feel thankful for during this time. Instead of saying, “We have to stay at home this summer,” parents can say a more encouraging phrase, like, “We have the opportunity to spend quality time as a family this summer and create lasting memories together!” A small change in a child’s mindset can help increase their motivation and help them remember their summer in a positive way.

Acknowledge and Accept Feelings

While families can work on practicing positivity in the household, children will likely feel a range of positive and negative emotions throughout the summer months. From disappointment due to changes in fun summer plans to missing seeing their friends, children may feel sad, frustrated, or lonely. Parents can encourage children to express their feelings and practice acceptance. For younger children with limited emotional vocabulary, parents can instruct them to draw their feelings. Older children and adolescents can journal or talk about their feelings to express themselves. Furthermore, parents can set up a weekly family meeting for family members to share their feelings openly and honestly. Families can create a list of rules to respect one another and try to suspend judgment in a loving, open environment.

Get Help if Needed

If your child feels helpless, try to listen to their concerns and explain any new plans with the crisis in a developmentally appropriate manner. If parents notice that their children are feeling ongoing symptoms of depression, anxiety, irritability, have lost interest in their normal activities, or have difficulty concentrating, please reach out for help and ask to speak with a mental health professional. Remember that mental health is a real health issue, and early intervention is key. During this time, many therapists, including the professionals at North Shore Pediatric Therapy, offer both virtual telehealth visits and in-office sessions.

As the days and weeks pass by, families will soon find their “new normal.” Humans are very resilient and somehow find ways cope, even in the most stressful situations. So, resist the urge to be a perfect parent, reconnect with loved ones, take a lot of deep breaths, have some fun, and we will make it through together!

NSPT offers services in the Chicagoland Area. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help!Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Managing Your Child’s Stress During COVID-19

This week, the head of our Neuropsychology Department offers some advice on how to manage the stress your child might have during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Life has changed. 

Restaurants are closed. Playdates are scheduled over zoom. The classroom is now our kitchen table. Our world has grown smaller. While this can be difficult for us, it can be even harder on children. It’s difficult for children to understand Coronoavirus and to process how and why all of this is happening. But we can adapt, we can survive, and we can help our children through this. Here are some things I’ve done to help my six year old during the pandemic.

  • Avoid the news (on television and social media).
  • Have daily/nightly routines such as family movie nights, game nights, etc.
  • Do activities that you normally would not do such as camping in the basement or in the backyard.
  • If there are multiple adults in the household, take turns with eLearning.
  • Keep a schedule for eLearning and for the entire day (we thrive with routines and structure)
  • Try to think of activities to change the day such as going for walks or car rides.

Remember, brighter days are ahead. We will all get through this together. Not everyday needs to be perfect, forgive yourself for being frustrated with this “new normal”. Patience and hope will see us through.

If there are concerns about your child’s behavior or learning, we recommend scheduling a Neuropsychology consultation to discuss any evident issues.

NSPT offers services in the Chicagoland Area. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help!Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

parent teacher conferences

Ten Tips for Parents for Successful Parent-Teacher Conferences

parent teacher conferencesParent-teacher conferences serve as an important time in a child’s academic year. The teacher can provide updates and insight into your child’s progress within the classroom. In today’s schools, teacher’s conferences schedules are often jam-packed and you might only have fifteen precious minutes with the teacher to talk about your child. If you want to get the most out of this vital time with your child’s teacher, then a little prep is needed! Here are our top 10 tips for a successful parent conference:

10 Tips to Prepare for Conferences:

 

  1. Ahead of the conference (in fact starting today!) ask the teacher to log behaviors or issues, so you have concrete examples about behaviors your child is engaging in that the teacher wants to discuss.
  2. Make a questions list beforehand. Focus questions not only how the child is doing academically but also socially and behaviorally.
  3. Invite your child to suggest if there is anything you should know before you go in or any concerns he or she would like to raise.
  4. Ask your child what he or she likes about school and also what he or she does not like.
  5. Ask the teacher how you can make sure your child reaches his or her potential? What extra activities would be recommended?
  6. Ask the teacher who your child is friends with and how that aspect of school is going.
  7. Ask the teacher who your child sits with at lunch and if he or she smiles a lot and looks happy.
  8. Ask the teacher if she has any other concerns about your child besides academics.
  9. If the teacher says anything negative about your child, without follow up, ask for a solution(s) and tell her you also will think of some.
  10. Don’t be defensive, just ask good questions!

 

Remember that the teacher is there to help your child develop to the highest potential. It is important to take the advice that is provided as they have seen many children and can readily identify areas of strength and weakness. It is important to work as a team to make sure your child’s academic and social needs are met.

If your child’s teacher identifies concerns regarding your child; the best advice is to be proactive and garnish additional information instead of waiting. If there are possible concerns regarding the child’s attentional regulation, learning, and/or social-emotional functioning, it would be recommended to seek out a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation to help identify whether or not there is a specific diagnosis such as ADHD, a learning disability, anxiety, or Autism Spectrum Disorder. If and when a specific diagnosis is identified, individualized recommendations would be able to be created to help the child progress at the highest level possible.

If you are in the Chicago area and would like to discuss issues that arise from parent-teacher conferences or you have other concerns regarding your child, please contacts us at 1-866-309-4610 or fill in the contact form on this page.

CONTACT US TODAY

 

 

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Bully Pointing And Laughing At Boy

Bullying: Helping the Child who is the Bully

Written by:
Erilda Borici, LCPC
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
Clinical Advisor for Mental Health and Counseling

The last days of summer are quickly approaching and that means that school is just around the corner. While many kids are looking forward to seeing their friends and teachers again, there are some kids who are dreading the return to school. For children and teens who are bullied, returning to school means having to endure endless teasing, name-calling, exclusion, threats and for some, physical aggression. It can be scary for these kids that experience consistent bullying at school. But what about the child who IS the bully?Bully Pointing And Laughing At Boy

Bullying is defined as “unwanted aggressive behavior among children that involves a real or perceived imbalance of power”. (Stopbullying.gov) The bullying is persistent or has the potential to be repeated over time. It can be verbal, physical, social/emotional or sexual. It can take place on the playground, in the cafeteria, in the classroom, in the neighborhood or online.  Between 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 US students say that they have been bullied in school (CDC). As we all know, it’s a prevalent problem, and while there have been so many great initiatives on how to help bullying victims, there is not enough information on the children who bully, why they do it, and how to help them stop.

Approximately 30% of US students have admitted to bullying someone. (CDC) If we think about how “the bully” is portrayed in movies and TV, we often see images of the angry kid who has low self-esteem. This is not always true. A child who bullies could also be the quiet, honor student, the happy, popular cheerleader or the student council member. Appearance really doesn’t have much to do with it and children who bully can be of any income level, race, family situation, gender, or religion.

Research shows that some of the reasons why children bully are:

  • Lack of empathy, perspective taking, and compassion.
  • Have poor social skills.
  • Might be bullied themselves.
  • Witness/experience aggression at home from parents or siblings.
  • Want to be “cool” or be part of a group that encourages bullying.
  • Quick to blame others and struggle with accepting responsibility for their actions.
  • Might be struggling with depression, anger issues, anxiety.

How to help children with bullying behaviors.

It’s important to start changing the language of how to refer to these kids. Using phrases like “once a bully, always a bully” can be really damaging. Sticking someone the term “bully” does not help prevent bullying. Bullying is about behavior which means that it’s about making a choice. Here are some tips on how to help support and teach children about stopping behaviors that are hurtful to others.

  • Teach your child about bullying from an early age. It’s important to talk to your child about how to treat others with respect, kindness, empathy and most importantly acceptance. Accepting that others might be different than us but that everyone is deserving of respect.
  • Teaching responsibility and accountability. Bullying is not caused by something the victim said or did. Children with bullying behaviors can become good at making excuses or blaming others for their actions. It’s important to help these children recognize the impact of their behaviors and take responsibility for their choices.
  • Provide clear consequences. Kids who are bullying others at school should be held accountable for their actions. If your child is bullying, take immediate action on providing clear consequences and discussing that the behavior is not tolerated.
  • Role-playing is a great tool to use to help model for kids how to resolve conflict, problem solve and manage difficult social situations. You can take turns playing the child who is doing the bullying and the victim to help your child see a different perspective.
  • Talk to your child about cyberbullying. Today, a child or teen has many choices on how to connect with friends and a lot of it is happening online. Many kids use social media platforms such as Instagram, and Snapchat to communicate and connect with their friends. While these apps are a lot of fun, they also provide opportunities for cyberbullying. It’s important to have a conversation about online safety with your child and to discuss some guidelines. Create a code of conduct such as:
    • Do not use social media to humiliate or embarrass someone.
    • Treat others online with the same respect that you would in person.
    • Do not post photos or videos of someone without their permission.

Continue to check in with your child about their online activity and review safety guidelines.

  • Talk with School Personnel. If your child is exhibiting bullying behaviors or if you are concerned that might in the future, reach out to the school and discuss these concerns with a school social worker or principal. Find out if your child’s school has a bullying prevention program or perhaps offers social skills groups that target teaching perspective taking, empathy, managing conflicts, and cooperation.
  • Provide positive feedback. When you notice your child is resolving conflict positively, responding with compassion and empathy or can effectively problem solve a situation, praise these behaviors. Positive reinforcement works wonders and is usually more effective than punishment. Providing your child with positive attention is crucial and will make your child feel confident and secure. Children who receive positive attention at home will be less likely to seek negative attention at school.

 

References:

stopbullying.gov. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Aug. 2018.
<https://www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/index.html>.

National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics, School Crime Supplement – PDF,  2011.

Pacer Center, Kids against bullying. https://pacerkidsagainstbullying.org/

Anxiety Disorders in Children

Why is Mindset Important for Child Development?

Kids thrive on pleasing their parents, so when your child does something well you want to praise them! Have you ever said “you are so smart” or “you are so talented” at a sport? It’s not that simple, as the way you praise them can impact their confidence and drive. Blog-Mindset-Main-Landscape

As an example, our son picked up a baseball bat at 2 ½ years old and was able to hit a pitched ball (no tee!) that same day. I was an extremely proud dad, especially since all the other parents at the park were clearly impressed. We enthusiastically complimented his natural talent and he seemed so proud. When we signed him up for a t-ball team his enthusiasm faded and we noticed he was less interested in trying to learn the game. We wondered why he was not excited to play.

My wife and I noticed some patterns at home and school. He would only attempt tasks that he felt confident or had already possessed a level of skill. As it turns out, what we were doing when we were praising his natural ability was feeding into his ‘fixed mindset’. With a fixed mindset, Carol Dweck writes in her book Mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or athleticism, are fixed traits and don’t change over time. They believe their talent alone creates success—without effort.

So how do we make sure that we are praising our kids ‘the right way’ to be sure they give their full effort? One idea is to encourage them to have a ‘growth mindset’ – where people believe their skills and abilities can be developed over time through hard work.

When our son took up hockey and was learning to skate we saw this as an opportunity to try out a growth mindset. We were determined to focus on praising his effort since we knew learning to skate would be potentially frustrating for a kid who is naturally athletic. We talked with him beforehand about how hard it would be, that he would fall a lot, but getting back up and trying again was most important and after each session we were enthusiastic about his effort.

And guess what? It worked! Towards the end of the 8 week session he even started coming off the ice bragging to us about how hard he worked. Even though he was not the fastest or best skater on the ice he was proud of his own resilience and what HE accomplished. As parents, we too were bursting with pride for him!

I strongly encourage you to ask yourself how you can start incorporating this type of growth mindset approach with your own children. Learn to recognize how you praise your children and ask questions such as “What did you try that was difficult or challenging today?” I bet you’ll be surprised how quickly you will see a positive impact. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

FIXED MINDSET (Intelligence is static) → Leads to a desire to look smart and therefore a tendency to…→ (Challenges) avoid challenges → (Obstacles) …get defensive or give up easily → (Effort) …see effort as fruitless or worse → (Criticism)…ignore useful negative feedback → (Success of Others) …feel threatened by the success of others → AS A RESULT, they may plateau early and achieve less than their full potential.

GROWTH MINDSET (Intelligence can be developed) → Leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to…→ (Challenges) embrace challenges → (Obstacles) …persist in the face of setbacks → (Effort) …see effort as the path to mastery → (Criticism)…learn from criticism →(Success of Others) …find lessons and inspiration in the success of others → AS A RESULT, they reach ever-higher levels of achievement.

References:

Dweck, C. S. (2006) Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

5 Tips for a Successful IEP Meeting

Attending your child’s IEP meeting can be a stressful and complex process. Whether you are new to the process or have previously attended IEP meetings, here are some helpful tips to make sure your child is getting appropriate services within the school setting: Blog-IEP-Meetings-Main-Landscape

  1. Understand what your child’s educational disability is. There are 13 different disabilities with specific criteria that must be met. Ask your IEP team members to explain what criteria your child met in order to receive their educational disability.
  2. Ask questions and state your feelings. It can be intimidating to sit around a table with educational professionals. Remember that school service providers have your child’s best interest in mind and want to ensure that you understand the paperwork involved in an IEP meeting. If you do not understand something — ask!
  3. Make sure the school service provider explains the goals for the IEP. Goals should be written based on data, and should be measurable so that you can see whether your child is meeting expected growth targets.
  4. Ask for (and understand) any accommodations listed on the IEP. There may be many accommodations provided to your child, but they should be applicable to what your child needs to succeed in the school setting.
  5. Remember that an IEP is a fluid document. It can be changed and revised as your child develops and their needs change. You can request to have an IEP meeting at any time to address concerns.

Receiving the appropriate services and accommodations can increase your child’s opportunity for your child’s success at school. However, some children need additional support outside the school setting. Mental health professionals can provide services that help your child understand and develop skills to use in all areas of their life — at home, in school, and in the community.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

Social Work

Is My Child Depressed? What You Should Know About Childhood Depression

What the Numbers Show

Research has shown that children, even babies, have experienced depression. In the United States alone, research studies suggest that up to one percent of babies, four percent of preschool-aged children, five percent of school-aged children, and eleven percent of adolescents meet the diagnostic criteria for Major Depressive Disorder. Blog-Childhood Depression-Main-Landscape-01

It is important to understand the risk factors and symptoms of childhood depression to help your child receive the necessary therapeutic interventions. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for children, adolescents, and young adults aged 10 through 24 (http://jasonfoundation.com/prp/facts/youth-suicide-statistics/). Suicide is significantly linked to depression, so early detection and diagnosis is critical and sometimes even life-saving.

Symptoms of Childhood Depression

Just like adults, children are capable of changes in mood, expressing negative thoughts, but are more likely to show depressive symptoms in behavioral ways. For example, a child experiencing depression may complain of fatigue, stomach aches, headaches, or experience irritability, changes in appetite, and changes in sleep patterns. These physical symptoms, often known as somatic symptoms, are expressed physical aches and pains that are real experiences for your child, although they have no known medical causes. These somatic complaints are often common in children who experience depression. It is important to rule out physical illness or other medical problems with your pediatrician if your child is experiencing these symptoms.

What Parents Can Do to Help

Parents are a child’s greatest advocate and support, so it is important to know what to do to help your child if you suspect that he or she is struggling with depressive symptoms.

  • Talk about depression with your child. Support and encouragement through open communication help your child feel comfortable to express his or her feelings. This lets your child know that he or she is not alone, is loved, and understood.
  • Talk with your child’s pediatrician. Mental health is just as important as your child’s physical health. If you notice your child is experiencing symptoms of childhood depression, call your pediatrician to alert him or her of your child’s emotional concerns. Your pediatrician may recommend a diagnostic screening or refer to an outpatient licensed therapist.
  • Don’t ignore it! Depression is a serious mental illness that cannot be brushed aside or ignored. Ignoring your child’s emotional concerns will not help your child obtain the treatment that he or she needs to overcome depression.

Treatments Offered

Depression is a treatable illness with success rates of up to 80% for children and adolescents who receive therapeutic intervention. The other 20% may respond well to medicinal interventions along with traditional therapy (https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/mind-guest-blog/what-adults-need-to-know-about-pediatric-depression/). Recommended treatments include play therapy, family therapy, and individual talk therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that helps children re-frame their negative thinking patterns to help them change their self-perception and consequently, improve their mood. Cognitive behavioral therapy is goal-oriented, problem-solving focused, and is one of the most commonly used interventions to treat depression.

Medicinal options are another commonly used treatment for children who experience depression, with the goal of reducing depressive symptoms. The majority of children who take antidepressant medications will be able to stop their medication with support from their pediatrician or psychiatrist when their symptoms improve. It is important to note that the use of antidepressant medication for children and adolescents may carry a higher risk for suicidal thoughts for this population. It is imperative to receive ongoing medication monitoring to assess risk of side effects and other interactions.

I Think My Child is Depressed. What Should I Do?

If you suspect that your child may be experiencing depression, it is recommended that you contact your pediatrician. Share your concerns and plan for a medical evaluation to begin the diagnostic process. If medical testing shows no other reason for the fatigue, stomach aches, headaches, sleep, appetite changes, or sadness that often come with depression, a licensed mental health professional will evaluate further to determine the most appropriate treatment plan.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

Social Work

A Counselor’s Take on 13 Reasons Why

If you have a preteen or teen child, you probably have heard of the hugely popular Netflix show 13 Reasons Why. The show, based on a best-selling novel, centers around Hannah, a teenage girl who dies by suicide and leaves behind tapes to the people she feels pushed her towards ending her life. This popular and controversial show has brought in discussions about mental health, bullying, sexual assault, substance use and suicide. As a counselor, I agree that raising awareness on these topics is crucial and necessary, especially considering the frightening increasing rates of these issues. However, I am concerned about the potential impact that this show might have on young teens. Blog-13 reasons why-Main-Landscape-01

Teenagers are very vulnerable to graphic content. The show can be hard to watch, and some scenes can be potentially very triggering. Many teens are binge-watching the show, which increases concern about the possible emotional distress that can be caused by doing so. I do not recommend that anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts watches the show as it might develop potential ideas or even romanticize the idea of suicide. The problem with the ultimate fantasy is that the character does not get to change her life with suicide nor does she get to find out what happens next. Suicide is final.

13 Reasons Why also misses the mark in its failure to address mental illness or depression ( the most common risk factor in completed suicides). Depression can look differently in teens than adults.

Some risk factors include:

  • Significant sense of sadness
  • Significant irritability
  • Isolation
  • Negative comments about life
  • Loss of interest in sports, hobbies, etc.

My recommendation is that if your child wants to watch the show, you watch with them.

Although it might be hard or uncomfortable, it might bring an opportunity to discuss important topics such as:

  • Talk to your children about bullying and what it might look like. Bullying can be physical or verbal abuse, excluding others, or using the internet/social media to attack and humiliate the victim. Teach your child to not be a bystander or support bullying.
  • Talk to your child about resilience and options on how to reach out for support if they are being bullied. If children develop resilience and strong self -advocacy, it can help them further develop their self- esteem and instill courage.
  • Talk to your child about symptoms of depression. 1 in 5 teens experience depression and suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15-24-year-olds according to the CDC. Discussing the issue of suicide does not plant the idea. It creates the opportunity to offer help. Have a conversation with your child about trusted adults in their life that they can reach out to if they need help.
  • Listen to your child’s comments without judgment. Do not minimize or trivialize what you see. If it appears insignificant to you as an adult, remember that this is a daily reality that teens are faced with each day. Allow your child to discuss any issues without judgment or punishment.

In addition, the Jed Foundation has released a great list of additional talking points. You can check those out here: https://www.jedfoundation.org/13-reasons-why-talking-points/

We need to use shows like 13 Reasons Why as a reminder. A reminder to be emotionally present and let children know that they are loved and supported. Children need you to be their secure base, to support their exploration, help them, enjoy with them and watch over them. Make sure to create a space for listening that is nonjudgmental and supportive.

If you need to talk, or if you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline 1800-273-8255 or 1800-SUICIDE (784-2433).

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

Social Work