Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression?

For many people, the line between the experience of Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression may be blurred. This is not because they are one in the same, but rather, there is a lack of education regarding the inherent differences between what may seem like similar symptom presentations. In fact, Postpartum Depression is just one subset of a greater category of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD). Postpartum Depression appears to be a buzzword in today’s culture but it leaves out the anxiety, panic, and potential psychosis that can also be triggered during the pregnancy and after childbirth.

Symptoms of the Baby Blues:baby blues or postpartum depression

  • Anxiety
  • Lack of focus/concentration
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Change in sleeping habits
  • Frequent crying
  • Shifts in mood

Although many of the symptoms are the same between the Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression, the biggest difference lies in the duration. Baby Blues are a normal occurrence due to the fluctuations the mother’s hormones, may appear in the first week postpartum, and last at maximum of 1-3 weeks before dissipating. Postpartum Depression will last longer and can be triggered anytime within the first year of parenting.

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression:

Excessive worry

  • Guilt/Shame
  • Loss of interest in former pleasurable activities
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Irritability/Agitation
  • Sadness
  • Discomfort or fear around baby
  • Anxiety/Panic
  • Inability to bond with baby
  • Feeling poor about ability to parent and be a mother

Risk factors that can influence Postpartum Depression:

  • History of personal or familial Postpartum Depression and/or other mental illness
  • Life changes or stressors
  • Lack of support
  • Whether or not the pregnancy was planned
  • Infertility or previous complications with pregnancy
  • Perfectionistic tendencies
  • Unrealistic expectations of parenting or pregnancy

Treatment exists for those experiencing Postpartum Depression and can be beneficial to ensure the health and well-being of both mother and baby. If you or someone you know is unsure if her experience is Postpartum Depression or the baby blues, contact Katie Kmiecik, MA, LCPC or any other PMAD Specialist at Postpartum Wellness Center for more information

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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!

5 Tips for a Successful Summer Break

5 Tips for a Successful Summer Break

With summer right around the corner, now is the time to set your family up for success when the school doors close. Planning ahead can reduce stress, align expectations, and make sure that everyone’s needs are met so that summer can be pleasurable for all involved.

Here are 5 tips for a successful summer break:

  1. Gain knowledge of expectations. Set up a family meeting to determine what everyone’s5 Tips for a Successful Summer Break expectations are. To plan ahead can alleviate stress and frustration, but it is essential to make sure that everyone is on board with the summer structure. Have each child identify individual wants and needs. If the child is scheduled for day camp and that is not something that they “want to do” have them also come up with alternative ideas that would make their summer fun (i.e. going to Six Flags, going to the beach, etc.). Also, if the child views day camp as non-preferred, the parent can then share positives about going to camp (i.e. getting to swim, play with friends, engage in sports) to challenge previous negative thinking and facilitate smoother, morning time transitions.
  2. Establish Routines. Arrange for everyone to come together to determine daily structure in the home so that there are no surprises. Calling a family meeting can be helpful to debunk the child’s “lax” expectations for summer vacation and reinstate a more appropriate daily system. If the child wishes to do art all day, or swim, or sleep, the parent can work to structure these unstructured activities to create routine and clear boundaries.
  3. Research activities as a family. Allow your child to collaborate on what activities sound like fun for the family to engage in. Asking for your child’s ideas about weekend plans can help them feel empowered and demonstrate the art of compromise.
  4. Get outside. Summer presents a great opportunity to maximize play-based skills and physical activity. Encourage your child to be outside at least an hour a day to boost their mood, release energy, and provide alternative means for parent-child bonding.
  5. Maintain academic skills. Although summer is a fun time to engage in a plethora of recreational activities, it can also include some reality-based activities. When a child is out of school for several months, it is important that some academic tasks happen regularly to reduce risk for losing skills and to maintain gains. Identify a variety of subjects or tasks for the child to pick from and determine a set frequency of engaging in this activity (i.e. math workbook, reading, writing tasks, etc.).


NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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!

childhood anxiety

Anxiety in Children: What You Need To Know

In the world of mental health, anxiety is recognized as the most common disorder affecting individuals of all ages.  According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (, about eight percent of children and teens in the United States experience the negative impact of anxiety.

“A large, national survey of adolescent mental health reported that about 8 percent of teens ages 13–18 have an anxiety disorder, with symptoms commonly emerging around age 6. However, of these teens, only 18 percent received mental health care(1).”

These numbers are startling.  For me, most troublesome is the fact that less than twenty percent of the surveyed teens with an anxiety disorder received mental health care.  As adults who are responsible for the care and well-being of children it’s important to be informed about anxiety in children so we are equipped to appropriately respond.

What is anxiety in children and what does it look like?

Feeling anxious in certain situations is natural.  In fact, feeling anxious helps us stay alive.  When dangerchildhood anxiety presents itself, our senses are heightened, we’re extra alert, and we’re ready to mobilize.  Consider an individual riding a motorcycle, driving through heavy traffic, or performing on stage.  Anxiety helps these individuals pay attention, stay safe (and avoid other cars on the road), and devote energy to nailing the task at hand.  However, some individuals experience anxiety when no real danger exists.  The recurrent experience of anxiety to the point that it negatively impacts one’s everyday life may mean the person is suffering from an anxiety disorder.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition, explains that for someone to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety must be “excessive” and “(persist) beyond developmentally appropriate periods” (p. 189).  For example, one anxiety disorder described in the DSM-5 is Separation Anxiety Disorder, where the key feature is “excessive fear or anxiety concerning separation from home or attachment figures” (191).  Consider that while this can be classified as a disorder, periods of heightened anxiety in relation to separation from primary caregivers is a natural and expected part of healthy attachment development.

NAMI categorizes symptoms of anxiety into two types of experiences: emotional and physical.

Physical symptoms of anxiety:

  • pounding/racing heart and shortness of breath
  • sweating and tremors/twitches
  • headaches, fatigue, insomnia
  • upset stomach, frequent urination or diarrhea

Emotional symptoms of anxiety:

  • Feelings of apprehension or dread
  • Feeling tense and jumpy
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Anticipating the worst and being watchful for signs of danger

What to do about anxiety in children:

If you know someone who appears to be suffering from excessive anxiety, don’t sit back quietly.  Anxiety is treatable and the earlier that intervention begins, the better.  Speak to your child’s teacher, school psychologist, social worker, or pediatrician if you suspect that your young one is in need of help.

Anxiety Disorders

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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!


Separation anxiety

Separation Anxiety: Why It Happens and How it Can Be Resolved

Separation Anxiety in early childhood is a normal developmental stage. During infancy, children are becoming familiar with their parents and their home environment. They become comfortable with their caregivers and learn what to expect from them. Around 8-14 months children start becoming uncomfortable and fearful around situations and people that are unfamiliar. Separation from their parents during this stage of development can make children feel threatened and unsafe. During times ofseparation-anxiety separation children may express distress. They may cling to you, cry, and refuse to separate from you. These feelings typically subside around 2 years of age. At this time children have learned that their parents will return later. To help children to move through this stage successfully, children need to learn to feel safe in their environment, trust people other than their caregivers and trust that their caregivers will return. Separation anxiety can return during periods of stress, including the loss of a loved one or a loved pet, changing classrooms or changing schools, or moving to a new home.

Despite the trust gained and maintained in first stages of development, entering into the preschool setting may be the first time trust is being tested outside the safe and secure home environment. The child may feel uncertain if and how their needs will be met as they explore this uncharted territory.

Ways to deal with separation anxiety:

  • Establish consistent routines
  • Practice separation
  • Develop a goodbye ritual
  • Work with the school and the teacher to make transitions successful
  • Use transitional objects (pictures of you, something special that reminds your child of you, a favorite blanket or a favorite toy)
  • Do not prolong the time you spend leaving your child
  • Do not sneak away from your child
  • Check in with how you are feeling. Your child will pick up on your ambivalence and anxiety.

When to be concerned about and seek mental health support for separation anxiety:

  • When the fear/anxiety does not go away or your child is over 6 years old
  • Your child exhibits extreme distress when separated from you
  • Your children exhibits reluctance to go to school or other places due to fear of being separated from you
  • Reluctance or refusal to go to sleep without you or another primary caregiver close by

Click here to watch a Pediatric TV Episode on Separation Anxiety in children.

Anxiety Disorders

NSPT offers occupational therapy services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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!

5 apps to promote social skills

Top 5 Apps to Promote Social Skills

If you want to turn screen time into a productive opportunity to promote skills, there are apps that can double as fun and educational. Not only can your child independently engage in these games, the content can allow for parent-child interactions to strengthen the child’s comprehension of the material and help them translate these principals into real-life practice.

Top 5 Apps to Promote Social Skills:5 apps to promote social skills

  1. Model Me Kids: This app provides a variety of social stories to help prepare children for what behaviors are expected based on setting. If your child struggles with transitions or how to modify behaviors based on the social context, this app is a great tool to walk your child through ways they can communicate their needs, anticipate outcomes, and reduce anxiety about the unknown. The parent can sit down with their child, review the social stories, and process how their particular visit to the hairdresser, mall, or playground can go based on real-life expectations and what the child can say or do in their own specific experience.
  2. Social Skills Play: This app allows the child to view and/or participate in dialogue about how to effectively interact with peers. Various play-based scenarios are presented and the child can determine if the interaction between characters are positive or negative. If the communication was negative (i.e. the character was inflexible or insensitive), the parent can process with the child what a better choice could have been that that the character could have initiated. This intervention targets social-communication and helps children determine positive and negative choices when asserting their thoughts and needs.
  3. What Would You Do at School If… Fun Deck: This app presents various school-based scenarios and allows your child to practice effective problem-solving skills to negotiate frustrating or non-preferred situations while at school. This concept calls attention to the fact that the strategies a child might use to resolve a problem in the context of their home environment may be different than what they can do at school (i.e. the child might be able to do more negotiation in a more flexible structure, whereas their ability to solve problems in a fixed structure like school may look different). Here, the parent can also collaborate with child to come up with more than one solution to a perceived problem so that the child has multiple tools to prevent conflict and negative feedback.
  4. Choiceworks: This app provides a visual schedule inclusive of a timer and choices to help the child manage routine and communicate thoughts and feelings appropriately. The parent can sit down with the child and add various tasks to the schedule, set a designated time for task completion, and the child can identify positive coping strategies to help them get through non-preferred tasks or demands. Instead of crying or refusing to engage in task, the child can identify alternative coping strategies to regulate mood and enhance behavioral compliance.
  5. Zones of Regulation: This app allows the child to enhance mood and behavior regulation through a color-coding system. The various colors represent different levels of emotion and the child can gain recognition of triggers and associated physiological responses to anger. The child can then learn to appropriately evaluate the size and severity of problems and identify calming, self-soothing strategies to reduce upset emotion. The parents can then assist their child to develop problem-solving strategies to resolve the presented issue. Additionally, the parent can help enhance the child’s social thinking skills by asking the child how they think other people would respond to their negative reactions and how this could impact their future social interactions. Developing positive choices when feeling upset can also lead to the enhancement of pro-social decisions.

Click here for our occupational therapist’s choice of the top 5 apps for handwriting!

NSPT offers mental health services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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!

Self-Care Tips From A Mental Health Practitioner

As a mental health practitioner, I strive to educate my clients and families about the art of balance. It is not to say that indulging in delicious foods is “all bad” and being organized, routinized, and ahead of the curve is “all good.” What type of professional would I be if I didn’t practice what I preach? Here are some of my self-care tips that keep me happy, keep me healthy, and most of all, keep me balanced.

Self-Care Tips:self care tips

  1. Find time to exercise. Not only does it help keep your physique, it provides for an undisturbed outlet of “me time.” I use this opportunity to release stress, challenge my strength, and be tech-free save my iPod. I am unplugged and truly get to focus in the moment.
  2. You are what you eat. I am a firm believer that diet impacts the way you think, the way you feel, and how you navigate the trial and tribulations of daily life. If I am hungry, forget it. I eat balanced, nutritious meals that provide me fuel to get me through the day and are nutrient-dense. I have recalibrated my expectations for feeding to reflect foods that provide nutritional value and taste good. The goal of eating is not to live to eat, but to eat to live. Indulging at times is essential but I feel that taking control over my food choices positively impacts my mood. I control what I eat, whether it is kale or deep dish pizza and that makes all the difference.
  3. Know your limits. If you have had a long week and would prefer to veg on the couch vs. go out to dinner with friends, do just that. I have learned that the company you keep will be in your corner regardless. We live in an age of FOMO (fear of missing out) and this can often influence us to push our boundaries and offset the things that are essential for us to feel good. If you think it would be wise to stay in, you can always reschedule. There will always be other opportunities to socialize.
  4. Know when to say NO. It’s amazing all of the things we are capable of completing, accomplishing, and doing in a day. At the end of the night, I always like to reflect and see how many tasks I have been able to squeeze into that day and it amazes me at how much can be done. But that doesn’t mean it ALWAYS has to be that jam-packed. Yes, some days are hectic and full but make sure that not every day is filled to the brim otherwise you risk burnout, cranky moods, and illness.

Click here for more self-care tips when you are a parent.

NSPT offers mental health services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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!


Top Warning Signs of Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia is term that is often loosely thrown around to describe someone who is skinny or overly weight-conscious, however there are clear criteria that characterize this serious disorder. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders V, Anorexia Nervosa diagnostic requirements include:Anorexia

Restriction of energy intake leading to a significantly low body weight in the context of age, sex, developmental trajectory, and physical health

Intense fear of gaining weight or of becoming fat, or persistent behavior that interferes with weight gain even though at a significantly low weight

-Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight or shape is experienced, undue influence on body weight or shape on self-evaluation, or persistent lack of recognition of the seriousness of the current low body weight

If you are concerned that a loved one exhibits harmful/restrictive eating habits, low body image, and obsesses about thinness check the facts outlined by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders regarding the presence of Anorexia:

-deliberate self-starvation with weight loss

-intense, persistent fear of gaining weight

-refusal to eat or engages in restrictive eating patterns

-perpetual dieting

-excessive facial/body hair due to the inadequate consumption of protein

-abnormal weight loss

-abnormal hair loss

-absent or irregular menstruation

Consult your family physician or schedule an appointment with a mental health provider if these symptoms develop or persist for effective treatment options.

New Call-to-Action

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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!

eating disorders

Does My Child Have An Eating Disorder?

Are you concerned that your child is demonstrating symptoms of an eating disorder? There are many common misconceptions when one evaluates for the presence of an eating disorder such as the person needs to “be skinny,” “be female,” and “be obsessed with food and calorie counting.” Although these can be factors, eating disorders are an equal opportunity affliction and can affect individuals across size, shape, gender, race, and age. Eating disorders are indicative of a person’s unhealthy relationship with food and his or her unrealistic expectations for weight that negatively impacts the individual’s overall quality of life. Although food is a primary component in the diagnosis of eating disorders, the food itself is a maladaptive tool to cope with a range of emotions and can serve as a false method for power and control.

What are some symptoms of eating disorders?eating disorders

The restriction of calories, skipped meals, consumption of large amounts of food, purging, or loss of control when eating can all be manifestations of other underlying socio-emotional concerns. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, “almost 50% of people with an eating disorder meet the criteria for Depression.”  Psychological factors to be aware of when determining the presence of an eating disorder include:

  • Difficulty with mood regulation
  • Reduced impulse control
  • The need for control
  • Perfectionism
  • Parental dieting
  • Need for attention
  • High family expectations
  • Preoccupation with food, weight, body
  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Consumes tiny portions of food
  • Abnormal weight loss
  • Depression
  • Distorted body image (i.e. thinking they are fat or overweight when it is not the case)

Eating disorder treatment includes individual and group psychotherapy to gain strategies to become aware of and avoid maladaptive behaviors, challenge negative core beliefs about weight, and enhance self-esteem. Additionally, nutritional counseling and medication management for the treatment of the underlying depression or anxiety can be added as needed.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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!

Prepping for a Perfect Playdate: Elementary Age Edition

Parents of elementary school children have a number of questions about playdates.  For example, how long should a playdate be and how often should they occur? 

The answer, you ask? Well, it depends! The above questions are only the beginning of an important list of considerations when thinking about playdates in elementary school. First and foremost, you have to know your child. For example, how active is your child, what types of activities keep him engaged, how are his problem-solving skills? Does your child know when to ask for help? The answers to these questions can help parents plan a playdate that is appropriate for their child’s individual needs.

Why are playdates so important for elementary age kids?

While playdates in elementary school can require extra time and energy, playing with peers can be very beneficial to your young ones. Although school is a significant agent of socialization in a child’s life, play is often not part of most classroom learning. As stated in a previous blog about playdates for preschoolers, peer-to-peer interaction helps children develop their social and emotional skills. They learn social problem-solving, they practice communicating their thoughts, feelings, and ideas, and they have the chance to explore their creativity.

What to consider when prepping for a playdate:

It’s important to consider your child’s individual needs and preferences, as well as those of his playmates. Expectations are key! Clarifying everything from the start and end time, to what type of play is acceptable in your house can alleviate some common playdate frustrations. Be reassured that in your house, playdates carry your rules. This is not meant to suggest you shouldn’t expect some rule-breaking due to not knowing your house rules, however, kids are used to following different sets of expectations depending on the setting.

If your children are the type that requires more planned activities, then go ahead and plan, but be flexible! It’s good for children in elementary school to take some responsibility in planning their leisure time. One way to allow for this is to suggest a number of activities, and let the kids decide which ones to do and in which order to do them.

This leads me to my final note about playdates in elementary school. We know that as children mature and develop, they can be expected to take on more responsibilities. As the adults supervising playdates, we must remember to find the balance of giving our kids space, while also staying close enough to be available.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes PlainesHinsdale 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

Building Self-Esteem in Children

Building Self-Esteem in Children

A child’s self-esteem is very important as it helps with his daily successes. If a child is able to start off the day with a positive outlook then the child will be able to follow directions in class and become a better learner. A child can build self-esteem by forming and maintaining positive relationships with family, friends and other people he comes in contact with, for example, teachers, therapists and other adults. A child can also build self-esteem when he hears positive praise, when he does something good or when he is able to learn and master new skills. Often times a barrier can be placed in front of a child that will cause him to lose his self-esteem. Negative comments from people such as adults or bullies are the fastest thing that can tear a child down.

How can we teach our kids self-esteem?Building Self-Esteem in Children

  1. Praise the child
  2. Be there for the ups and downs. Use the down times for teaching and educating.
  3. Accept the child for who they are
  4. Allow the child to be themselves
  5. Don’t just celebrate the wins but teach from the loses

Is there a point where you are being too positive and too much of a cheerleader?

Children need to know that they are supported in every arena they enter. When it starts to hinder the child is when realistic expectations start to be forgotten and children are expected to do things that are over his head. Too much cheerleading can cause the child to lose hold of what is expected and what is required. There needs to be a fine line with building positive self- esteem and enabling children.