Friday, December 14, 2012

Prayers, Love, and Peace for You

Prayers, Love, and Peace for You

By Jamie Perillo, LPC

There are no words for what happened today. My heart and entire being is beyond sad for the tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School. My tears have not stopped for the innocent souls – the beautiful children that walked into school this morning probably talking about their Elf on the Shelf, what Santa was going to bring, what they might have gotten for Hanukkah.  For them the world was still full of magic. Today that was taken away from them.

My heart goes out to the families, the community, and the world. I cannot fathom such a tragedy. As a child and family therapist who works with children on many difficult life issues – today’s acts are beyond comprehension.

To the parents and families who got the call and ran to their babies, mothers, husbands, wives, fathers, and friends– my heart goes out to you. To the families who have received the heart-wrenching news – who could not find their babies and family – because they were not there – my heart goes out to you. I know, as someone who lost a mother early in life, those words I just wrote are not nearly enough. Will never be enough. I’m sorry. To the souls who are still fighting to live – I believe in miracles and I believe in you. The world is praying for your healing.

The time is now. Not tomorrow, not in the New Year, but today – this very second - to do what Gandhi said and “Be the change." To every parent, child, grandparent, every human soul – use your voice, stand up for what you believe in, know that the smallest acts can be the biggest. The world needs healing and every one of you has the ability to help heal.  

 Hate plus hate does not equal love. With such a senseless, horrific act that happened today, this is difficult to embrace. Start by embracing the Newtown Community. Then together, let’s embrace the world. You make a difference.

Prayers, Love, and Peace to the Newtown Community and You.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Nine Tips to Teach Your Child Gratitude

Nine Tips to Teach Your Child Gratitude
By Jamie Perillo, LPC

"Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude." ~ A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

1. Use a Gratitude Journal. Help your child focus on the positive by stating something good or something they are grateful for each day. They can write, draw, or scrapbook in their journal.

2. Play the Gratitude Game. Have each person take a turn stating something they are grateful for.  A great game for the dinner table!

3. Send Gratitude Cards. Have your child make a "Gratitude Card" for a family member, friend, or someone who has helped them.

4. Teach your child to look a person in the eyes when they say thank you. Not only will their message be better received but they will observe the recipient's response of a smile or nod.

5.Work towards something. Today's kids - the "instant gratification generation" receive information and often things rather quickly. Have your child earn that toy or game they desire. By working towards something there is a greater appreciation for the item and the person who gave it.

6. Send thank you notes.

7. Volunteer together.Teaching your child to lend a helping hand to those in need increases their understanding of what it means to be grateful. It also increases Serotonin, the "feel good" hormone.

8. Be the example. Say thank you, make gratitude statements, and  observe the positive with your child. Children who hear and observe adults express gratitude are more likely to identify gratitude themselves.

9. Don't forget to tell your child why you are grateful for them!

Monday, November 19, 2012

6 Things I Learned From Hurricane Sandy

6 Things I Learned From Hurricane Sandy
By: Jamie Perillo, LPC
Photo by Tina Woods, Publisher of Natural Awakenings Magazine, NYC edition

Almost a month after Hurricane Sandy, many on the East Coast are continuing to feel the effects. Relief efforts are in full swing and families are trying to piece their lives back together. As Thanksgiving is soon upon us, Sandy is a reminder of all that we have to be grateful for. 

Here are a few things I learned from Sandy:

1.       Sometimes we need to surrender. In an attempt to feel somewhat in control before the storm I cleaned. That’s right – I vacuumed, dusted, washed laundry, and even washed the floors. Somewhere between folding towels and vacuuming I heard myself saying the mantra I was taught and now end my yoga classes with. “Peace to yourself, peace to others, and peace to those things we have no control over.” I realized I was trying to feel in control of something much bigger than myself. I gave up cleaning, surrendered, and sat down to focus on the moment – safe at home with family.
2.       I have attachments. In the past decade social media has changed the way we live and it was magnetized for me during the storm. Fortuitously my very outdated scratched screen, flip phone’s time was up two weeks ago. Deciding to update myself, I purchased an IPhone which allowed me to “stay connected” during the hurricane. I was comforted by seeing friend’s posts knowing they were okay, received updates from my newly downloaded Hurricane app, and texted family members for assurance. Then when the power went out I needed to preserve my phone, so I put it aside. When I did this I noticed something – I relaxed. On a typical day, due to my work, my phone is constantly ringing, voicemails are left, and texts and emails are received. Being away from my phone allowed me to observe my attachment as a quiet stress inducer. I was reminded to put it aside more often.
3.       Quiet is nice. When the lights were out and the heat off I had little to do but snuggle under my blanket, read by candlelight, and listen to the radio gently playing in the background. I imagined my ancestors years ago living this simply and relaxed into it. I ate dinner by candlelight focusing on the meal instead of TV in the background, telephone calls, or email notifications. My mind and body felt relaxed devoid of all the regular stimulation – as if I had just left a two hour yoga class. Lesson learned. I will unplug more often.
4.       We need to take better care of Mother Earth. She can be uncontrollable, relentless, and sometimes even vicious but she’s also beautiful, healing, and a provider of life. As I watched the trees blowing furiously in the wind I noticed the pine trees in the back yard moving to and fro but not budging. I was lucky to keep most of my trees. The next day as I inspected the damage I realized the trees were here first. The recent weather patterns are speaking to us regarding climate change. It is time for us to listen.
5.       In times of great despair and suffering people’s good nature shines. News reports cast images of heroic men and women risking their well-being to help others who could not help themselves. Neighbors came together to offer a hand and friends offered their homes for comfort to those who were affected. Why do we wait for tragedies to express this human part of us?
6.       Humans have a great capacity to overcome and heal. In his book, Everything Beautiful Began After, Simon Van Booy writes, “After every chapter of devastation, there is a rebuilding; It happens without thought. It happens even when there is no guarantee it won’t happen again. Humans may come and go – but the thread of hope is like a rope we pull ourselves up with. “
I am reminded we have the ability to overcome, to trudge through the messes and puddles and hurts to grow stronger, rebuild, and to heal. When we do this together, lifting one another up, the results are more than what we started with.
7.       Focus on appreciation. We live in a fast paced society that is constantly thinking ahead instead of appreciating the moments we are in – hello Christmas commercials in October? I am grateful for the many blessings in my life, my friends and family. Sandy was a reminder these blessings, not things, are what matter.
Today I wish you to remember when to let go, use your supports, appreciate what you have, and know you are stronger than you believe. To those affected by Hurricane Sandy may the road to recovery be an easy one filled with love, support, and comfort from others.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Your Survival Guide for the Car Ride

 By; Jamie Perillo, LPC

Traveling with kids, especially long drives during the summer season, can be an adventure. Here are some tips to help you travel with ease and enjoy the ride.

1.     Give each child (mom and dad too) a throw away camera, journal, and photo book. During your car ride and vacation they can use their creativity and log their favorite moments.
2.       Pack a survival car kit for you and your kids. Essentials are extra headphones, batteries, Aspirin, Dramamine, Band-Aids, and any necessary medications. Then pack the “Fun” items such as a new DVD (I do not typically recommend watching DVDs in the car UNLESS it is a long car trip), travel games,  books, and special snacks. These can be thrown out throughout the trip as extra “surprises.”
3.       Use your “Fun” items for rewards. When everyone is sharing and keeping hands and feet to themselves they earn  a travel game.
4.       Spend time before the trip reserving CD’s from the library so each child can make their own vacation play list or CD for the trip.
5.       For long trips try book on CD.
6.       During travel breaks designate one child to be the leader for post drive stretching. Take turns.

 Don’t forget to make frequent stops and most importantly enjoy the ride!

What travel strategies do you use? We'd love to hear from you!

Monday, November 5, 2012

What are you feeling today?

 Help Your Child Communicate Their Feelings Effectively. Try Greco's Feeling Faces.
By: Jamie Perillo, LPC

    Has your child walked in the door from school looking withdrawn but unable to express their feelings? Did they have a terrible meltdown but cannot tell you why? Try using our tool, Greco's Feeling Faces, to help your child express their feelings and communicate  effectively.

     Show your child the chart and ask them to point to their feeling for today. If you are discussing an incident that happened earlier have your child think about their feeling in that moment and point to it. This strategy can create a starting point for conversation, have your child feel understood, and for you to understand your child.

     When using Greco's Feeling Faces do not forget to validate your child's feelings. Also, discuss a plan for what to do when your child is experiencing the feeling.

Examples, "When you feel nervous take five deep breaths."
                 " If you are scared tell Mom or Dad."
                  "When you are angry because a friend called you  a name in school tell the teacher."

Greco's Feeling Faces will be available soon for free download on our website. Check back soon!


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Talking To Your Child About Natural Disasters

Talking To Your Child About Natural Disasters
1. Explore your child's thoughts. If they ask a question inquire further. Find out what they know and how they feel about it. Don't assume and remember children have great imaginations.
2. Validate their feelings. For example, "That is a scary thought." This will encourage your child to talk to you in the future about their feelings and let them know it's okay to have these feelings. Statements like "don't feel scared" do not stop a child from having fears - that is about you not them.
3. Remind your child you, their family and friends, and teachers work hard to keep them safe. Discuss your family's safety plans should a natural disaster occur. Show your child you are prepared. Remember to speak calmly. For example, "Parents and schools have plans to keep kids safe."
4. If appropriate get concrete with your information. For example, "Mom has lived here for 30 years which is 10950 days and we have never had an earthquake in all those days." If you have experienced a natural disaster such as a hurricane remind your child of the number of days a hurricane did not occur. Additionally, and importantly, count all of the people your child knows that had experienced the disaster and are okay and safe.
6. Make explanations simple.
6. Offer a way for your child to help such as gathering clothes or food to send to those in need - or offer a volunteer experience close to home where your child can feel helpful. This gives them a sense of control. Volunteering helps reduce anxiety as well.

7. If your family was significantly affected by a natural disaster it is helpful to seek additional support through a therapist or school counselor for your child and your family.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

How To Talk To Your Child About Preparing For A Hurricane

How To Talk To Your Child About Preparing For A Hurricane 

     As Sandy is approaching the East Coast many parents are trying to prepare their children for the storm. Here are a few tips for talking to your child in preparation for a Hurricane.

1. Explain the situation in simple and non-threatening words. For example, " Mommy and Daddy are buying flashlights and water for a  hurricane or storm. This means there might be loud rain, maybe some thunder, and wind. Sometimes the wind can be loud and make the lights go out but you are safe."

2. Always remind your child they are safe. Discuss how you are going to keep them physically and emotionally safe.

3. Physical safety: Remind your child you are prepared and the home is secure.  For example, discuss how you bought plenty of flashlights, batteries, water, and snacks in case you lose electricity. Show them you have charged your phone and help your child charge theirs if they have one. Show your child where all emergency phone numbers are kept and review  your family's emergency plan.

4. In case of an evacuation: If you are informed to evacuate simply explain to your child you are leaving your home because there might be strong wind and a lot of rain. Remind them it is a precaution - like having a "snow day" from school - to help keep everyone safe. Help your child pack some comfort items to bring with you.

5. Emotional safety: Make a plan with your child in case they get nervous. Remind them the noise can be scary but they are safe at home. Discuss what they will do if they are nervous. For example your child can talk to you, use play dough or a stress ball, hug their comfort item, listen to their Ipod or use noise canceling head phones to help decrease noise.

6. Prepare some games and toys in case you lose electricity. Crayons, coloring books, cards, DVDs (if you have access to a portable DVD player or laptop), favorite stuffed animal or blanket.
7. Keep calm and keep the news to a minimum in front of your child. If you appear calm and prepared your child will feel secure and less anxious.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Feelings Thermometer: How to Help Your Child Communicate Their Feelings

     Do you wonder what your child is feeling when they are unable to express themselves?  "The Feelings Thermometer" is a simple tool to support your child to express their feelings.
    Using The Feelings Thermometer is simple. Our thermometer is based on a 1-10 scale. 10 represents the "hot thoughts" - the highest degree of  feeling. The thermometer can be used for any feeling -  nervousness, anger, sadness, loneliness, embarrassment, and happiness.
    When using the thermometer I recommend
1. Exploring the emotion and degree to which they are experiencing their emotion.
2  Validating their feelings.
3. Discuss coping tools and strategies to deal with their emotions.
4. Praise! Praise your child for their efforts in expressing their feelings with you.

     I recently used the Feelings Thermometer with a group of youngsters participating in a support group for children with food allergies. They loved coloring their thermometer and were excited to share their feelings with the group. The thermometer was a fun, non-threatening tool to help the group safely discuss their worries.

     Two photos are attached. Check in soon with our website, for free printables of The Feelings Thermometer.