Sunday, December 11, 2016

How to Parent From Your C.O.R.E. this Holiday Season

By: Jamie Perillo, LPC

The holidays can be full of wonderful activities, visiting with family and friends, and enjoying family traditions, but for many, it can also be an overwhelming, and have too many obligations, expectations, and expenses. When you Parent from you C.O.R.E. you can set limits, focus on your family values, and be present to enjoy the holidays. Here are a few ways to parent from your C.O.R.E. this holiday season:

Communicate: Express your needs. If you need help, time for yourself, or a have a desire to participate in specific traditions or activities, ask for it. Be clear and specific on what you need with those close to you. When your needs are met it is easier to enjoy the season.

One to One Time: There can be a lot of opportunity to run from one party or cookie swap to the next, but it’s important, especially this time of year, to make individual time for you and your family. The big office party may feel important, but imagine the enjoyment of gathering with a small group of friends or taking a family drive while listening to holiday music ad drinking cocoa to view local holiday lights. To explore more family time ideas check out our previous blog on “25 Affordable Family Holiday Activities.” Don’t forget to take a little time for yourself  - perhaps make that hot cocoa a little special and enjoy a movie.

Rituals: If you don’t have a few already, this is the perfect time of year to start family rituals or traditions. Choose something meaningful to your family values. Our family enjoys baking cookies, gathering with friends and family, having movie nights, and volunteering.

Emotional Presence: The excitement and often hectic nature of the season can pull you right out of the present moment causing you to miss out on meaningful moments. Many parents express difficulty being present with their children and spouse when they are silently checking off their “to do list” and feeling exhausted. When you notice yourself drifting from the present moment, take a few deep breaths and feel your feet on the floor. Then observe what is occurring around you in that exact moment and describe it to yourself. This exercise will help you let go of your stressful thoughts and re-enter the moment to allow you to enjoy your time with your family. Focus on their smile, laughter, silliness and excitement, or just a moment when you are grateful for where you are and what you have.

By focusing on these steps you will find yourself more relaxed, present, and happier this holiday season.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

25 Affordable Holiday Family Activities

By: Jamie Perillo, LPC

1.       Hide a holiday or winter book each night for twenty –five nights. Each night the kids get to hunt for a book then have family story time.

2.       Bundle up and take a walk or hike outside.

3.       PJ’s, popcorn, and your favorite family movie.

4.       “Minivan Express” - Leave a ticket on your child’s pillow for a surprise night aboard the “minivan express” equipped with popcorn, hot cocoa, and music. Pile the kids in the car and enjoy your treats and drive around looking at holiday light displays.

5.       Make your own salt dough or cinnamon ornaments.

6.       Check out your local high school, college, or community center for a winter play or musical. Pack a snack and enjoy!

7.       Bake and decorate cookies together.

8.       Have a camp-in under the stars. String lights in your living room, get cozy in some sleeping bags, and have a winter camp-in under the stars. Don’t forget the s’mores!

9.       Game night. Unplug all electronics, phones, televisions and grab your favorite family board games.

10.   Cook a favorite family recipe together. Dress up and have a fancy dinner at home. Not the dress up type? Grab your comfy clothes, and picnic blanket, and have a family picnic indoors.

11.   Volunteer together. Find a cause meaningful to you and volunteer as a family.

12.   Holiday lights/decorations scavenger hunt! Make a scavenger hunt (or find one online), take a drive, and see who can complete their list first.

13.   Make Gratitude cards. Decorate cards, write words of gratitude and thanks, and give to family, friends, teachers, and other helpful and meaningful people.

14.   Date night. Have a date night with your kids.

15.   Family Photographers. Give each child a camera, let them click away, then print the pictures and make a family scrapbook.

16.   Craft together.

17.   Try something new as a family.

18.   Make gingerbread houses, pretzel log cabins, or cookie cottages.

19.   Try a healthy family activity together. Take a yoga class (many studios offer “By donation classes” around the holidays), snow shoe, ice-skate, take a walk on a beach, or play a game of catch.

20.   Many towns have a “Holiday Stroll” this time of year that include special family activities and treats. Find one nearby and take a stroll.

21.   Participate in a 25 Days of Kindness Challenge. Find one online or have each family member do one kind gesture for someone each day. Log your experiences.

22.   Host a potluck gathering for family or friends.

23.   Spend a day helping a neighbor, family member, or friend. Run errands, clean, or just keep them company.

24.   Check out your local library, place of worship, or parks and recreational center for low-cost holiday activities.

25.   Try a painting class. Enjoy a fun family activity with an added bonus of making some homemade gifts.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Mom and Dad, Your'e Doing Alright

By: Jamie Perillo, LPC          

            Parents often ask me, “Am I doing the parenting thing right?” “I want to be a good Mom,” or “I hope my kids remember some of the good stuff and not all of my mess-ups.” I see the agony on their faces when their child is hurting, and I hear their inner plea,” Please, don’t let it be because of me.” When there was something, perhaps they could have done differently I see their breathing shallow and their eyes silently begging for their child’s forgiveness.  Sometimes I see a parent’s fatigue, overwhelm, and exhaustion. I hear from deep in their gut a quiet yell, “Damn, this is hard.” And when something wonderful, even the tiniest of wonderful occurs, I see their eyes fill with tears of pure joy and relief.

I’ve had parent’s ask me, "Do you think my kids will remember any of the good or just my mistakes?' Here’s my answer:

In the seventeen years my mother was alive, I probably complained a lot. No, I know I complained a lot. When I was an early teenager I threw out a few blaming “It’s because of you” or “It’s all your fault” statements. Now, eighteen years later I can’t remember why I said those things - all I remember is the good stuff. My mother standing at the top of the stairs, cooking chicken soup in the kitchen, and smiling as I came in the front door from school, her arms open wide to greet me. I remember her studying social studies facts with me, writing “you’ll do great” on my arm, trying  to relax my anxious mind; and when I was afraid of  the playground ghost stories she would sit in the beanbag chair in my bedroom until I fell asleep. I remember watching her at the kitchen table doing homework with my sister in the evening, after she had already picked me up from tennis practice and made dinner – hours after she had undergone chemotherapy and radiation– sitting giving time to us.

Your kids will remember your tiny gestures -when you rub their back when they have a cold, tucking them in at night and allowing that extra bedtime story – just because.  They’ll remember when you greet them at the door, or put your phone/work/emails down to listen to the new joke they learned, or you surprising them at school for an ice-cream date. They will look back one day and understand you did the best you could with what you had at the time.

I had my mom for seventeen years. It was not nearly long enough. But when she was here – she was here; she was present. We knew we were loved and she took the time to make sure of that. She filled us up with enough love to last, and for that I am grateful.

Give your children TIME, create memories, participate in family ritual (traditions), laugh and joke together, give hugs, say, “I love you,” say, ”I’m sorry,” and  look them in their eyes and  listen. These are the things they will remember. Give yourself a break - you are doing a great job.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Ease into School: Help Your Child Form their Team with 10 Simple Questions

By: Jamie Perillo, LPC   
    It’s that time of year again – to trade in the beach towels for backpacks, lazy summer days for early morning alarms, and the comforts of home and camp friends for new teachers, classmates, and schoolwork. This transition is not easy for many kids. Help your child reduce their anxiety by “creating their team” with a few simple questions.

    By creating a “team” of supports your child will feel comforted, confident, and in control. Here are a few questions to help your child choose their team players:

1. Who are your helpers? If you need help with schoolwork, finding something, or just need help who can you ask? Then help them list the appropriate people – perhaps a teacher, principal, nurse, lunch aid, para, or friend.

2. Who are your school work helpers? If you don’t understand something who can you ask?

3. Who are your “fun” team members? Who can you be silly with? (When it’s appropriate) Who can you ask to play with?

4. Who are your lunch team members? Who would you like to sit with if you can?

5. Who are your bus team members? If there’s a problem on the bus who are your helpers?

6. If something doesn’t feel good, who are your helpers? Or if your child has a specific medical condition such as food allergies, asthma, or diabetes – who are their designated helpers?

7. Who are your funny friends? If you need to laugh who can you find?

8. If you are having a difficult feeling – feeling sad, missing mom or dad, worried, or angry or upset about something who is on your team that can help? Perhaps a school social worker, teacher, principal, para, or friend.

9. If someone in school is bugging you who is on your team that can help?

10. When you are ready to kick off your shoes at the end of the day, who on your team can dance, play, or relax with you?

    By asking these questions, and helping your child form their team, you are empowering your child and building the confidence they can handle issues as they arise by seeking the appropriate help. This exercise reminds your child they are not alone – in fact they have a whole team of support! Just as parents need that reminder, so do kids. Don’t forget to remind your child they are the captain of their team and they can hire and fire as they choose.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Form Your Team and Reduce Your Stress

By: Jamie Perillo, LPC


               Do you go to bed with anxiety, feel your chest tightening when you think of your family’s daily schedule? Do your muscles tense when you consider how you will get from work to your child’s bus stop in time to pick them up, gather the kids and give them their snacks, assess homework, pile them into the car for baseball, drum lessons, and girl scouts?
            More parents are reporting increased anxiety, depression, and an overall increase in stress. When, as a child and family therapist, I see parents for stress related issues I ask, “Who is your support network?”           

          Several generations ago parent’s lived in close knit communities or tribes, receiving readily available support from grandparents, relatives, or community members. Today due to technology, transportation, and the economy - parents often go it alone or with minimal supports. 

          In our westernized culture a sort of “Supermom” phenomena has developed.  Parent’s often say they feel they need to be able to do it all, do it well, and do it alone or they are not good parents. They show feelings of inadequacy or failure if they need to ask for help. Yet the very nature of being human is our ability and need to connect with others.

            A lack of support and false idea that being a good parent means being able to do it all alone is extremely stressful. You don’t have to do it alone. Whatever the source, support is an essential component of being a parent and being human.
How Do You Get Support?

There are two types of support needs: physical and emotional. Phyiscal needs are daily activity supports. First, assess your current supports – where do you feel you would benefit from some extra help? Start your own Mommy or Daddy team by reaching out to others.  You can fashion your team by joining a parents ‘support group, play group, or creating your own book group. Instead of dropping your child off at practice, reach out and talk to other parents – perhaps start a carpool with a parent nearby or take turns making community dinners where each parent brings a dish to trade off on days your child has games, reducing the stress when you return home.  Find dependable and available sitters or offer to swap days with another parent for caretaking
            Perhaps your daily routine has a good rhythm but you need emotional support - someone to vent to or a friend to laugh with. Gather your team. Use your reliable sitter or friend who will care for your kids so you can have some “you” time. Start a “Mommies night,” join a basketball league, have date night with your spouse, or search your local adult education program for an activity that will interest you.  Join a monthly parent’s support group, seek a reputable online parenting forum, or find support with a professional for your emotional needs.

Next, designate the level of support from each “team member.” Think of your team as a bullseye – your center target consist of your closest and most dependable supports then moves outwards.  Some will be priority players and some may be backups. There are friends you know you can count on who are team players, providing a healthy balance of give and take.  Other friends you might contact and hear from a week or month later. They may still be good friends, and a good laugh, but perhaps not the team members to use in a bind.  Then there are the people in life – I’m sure you know one or two – which you want in your life, but they are unreliable for physical or emotional support. You don’t have to kick them off the team, just be mindful of where they stand, so you are not disappointed. Remember you are the captain – you can hire and fire team members as you choose.
  Once you have your team in place, practice seeking out different members for different types of support. As you do you will notice a change in your stress level, and perhaps even in your anxiety or mood. Your kids will notice too. Another benefit of actively seeking support - you are teaching your children to do the same.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

15 Budget Friendly Summer Activities for Your Family

15 Budget Friendly Summer Activities for Your Family

By: Jamie Perillo, LPC

Daylight lingers longer, evenings are warmer, and the kids are ready to play. Here are a few budget friendly summer activities for your family.

1.       Say cheese! Grab your cameras, phones, or purchase a throw away camera. Take an adventure through your neighborhood or go to a nearby park or walking path. Everyone photographs their favorite things in nature. Print the pictures and make a college or photo book.

2.       Scavenger hunt!  Make one in your neighborhood, backyard, beach, or local park.

3.       Picnic Time! Grab a blanket, a basket, and bring your favorite books and board games to play under the trees or at your favorite park.

4.       Take a trip to the farmer’s market. Summer is a wonderful time to peruse the tables of fragrant flowers, fresh herbs, and homemade jams. Choose your favorite foods, head home, and cook a meal together.

5.       Play in the dirt. One of our favorite activities in the summer is to grow a garden full of fresh  veggies, herbs, and flowers. Gardening with your kids can be a relaxing activity that encourages a love of fruits, veggies, and nature.

6.       Grab your towels, sunscreen, and shovels. Head to the nearest beach for fun in the sun.

7.       Camp-out or Camp-in! When my sister and I were younger my family tried a few camp-outs. Soon after my parents started the “camp-in.” We laid our sleeping bags out in the living room, kept our flashlights close, played board games, and grilled S’mores. Your kids won’t forget it!

8.       Rainy day? Visit your local library.

9.       Explore your local parks. Parks and hiking trails are cost-effective ways to get outside as a family (bring your pup too) and get moving. Don’t forget your sunscreen and water!

10.   Homemade popsicles to cool you down after a warm summer’s day. Find a recipe with your favorite fruits and enjoy!

11.   Berry picking! Find a local farm that offers berry picking. Pick your own strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. Enjoy a big bowl of berries or make homemade jam and pies with your pickings.

12.   Make your own glow in the dark backyard bowling.

13.   Movie or music under the stars. Many cities and towns offer family friendly free movies or concerts in the park. Pack your favorite snack and blanket –then relax!

14.   Create an obstacle course in your yard - let the kids get creative on this one.

15.   Relax. Enjoy some lemonade, a good book, a family board game or movie. Summer is the season of abundance but also a time to recharge. Find your balance.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

8 Ways to Spread the Love

By: Jamie Perillo, LPC

"Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” Mother Teresa

Growing up as a young child, each Valentine’s Day my father brought home a large bouquet of flowers, box of chocolates, and usually a gift for my mother. My sister and I would receive smaller bouquets of flowers, boxes of chocolates, and sometimes a stuffed animal. My mom always played it off not to expect something – because that was not what the day was about, but my sister and I waited excitedly for our dad to arrive home. Although she said,” that’s not what the day is about – it’s about sharing love,” my mom smiled a large smile when my dad came through the door carrying her roses. (Just to be fair there was always a gift for dad too.) The flowers were nice, and don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy flowers and Valentine’s now from my man, but the best message my family instilled as a child and my family practices today is to spread the love. Aside from the flowers we volunteered for community projects, helped others at home, and made homemade gifts for friends and family “just because.” This Valentine’s Day remember the more we give love the more love spreads.

Eight Ways to Spread the Love With Your Family:

  1. Start a family secret valentine. Everyone chooses a name and over the week they have to do one kind act for their valentine.
  2. Surprise a friend, neighbor, teacher, or loved one with a card, a homemade gift, or a nice phone call.
  3. Be mindful to practice random acts of kindness. Hold the door open for someone, give a compliment, or help a friend at school or work.
  4. Use positive words. Give compliments and express thanks and gratitude.
  5. Do something special for your community. Volunteer for a community project – check out local schools, community centers, animal shelters, or places of worship for ideas.
  6. Leave love notes.  Set up an area at home with crayons, paper, and other crafty items. During the week everyone can make a quick “love note” for family members and friends.
  7. Try something new as a family. Trying new activities together creates bonding moments and positive memories.
  8. Say, “I love you.” I’ve heard some say they save those three words for special occasions to save their meaning. I believe, however, to say, “I love you” as often as you can. For me those words never lose their meaning no matter when they are said. Let those you love know you love them.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Is Your Cup Too Full? 10 Ways to Reduce Your Stress

By: Jamie Perillo, LPC

Do you feel irritable, anxious, overwhelmed, exhausted, or down? Then your cup is probably too full.

Our cup – daily stress level - begins to fill each day with little drops – the drops can be physical, emotional, or mental. Physical drops may be the morning tantrum from your two year old because you didn’t give her the “right” socks, running late for work, the phone call reminder from your boss about that project due soon, or not getting enough sleep. These drops build throughout the day, some bigger than others.  Emotional or mental drops may be larger such as healing from a loss, disappointment, or sadness. These drops add to our “cup” throughout the day, eventually resulting in an overflow if we do not sufficiently filter it.

A child came into my office admitting he had a “blow-up.”  When we talked about his full cup he was able to acknowledge before his day began his cup was partly full with worry from listening to the news and sadness from kids teasing on the bus. As the day went on he didn’t get his way, struggled with a question on school work, and fought with his sister. By the end of the day, without having ways to filter his cup, it overflowed and he tantrumed.  Adults do the same.  I noticed I became cranky towards the end of the work day and my cup was feeling too full. I realized I wasn’t taking a lunch break, seeing clients for eight sometimes ten or eleven hours straight. Now my calendar has a set lunch hour. My mood became much brighter taking time for myself, nourishing my body, and utilizing the time for phone calls, meditation, or quick walk outside. Lunch and a breath of fresh air was a simple way to filter my cup.

How to Drain Your Cup and Reduce Your Stress

  1. Check in with yourself throughout the day. Take a minute to take a deep breath and scan your body. Are you tense, frustrated, clenching your jaw, or taking shallow breaths? If so take one minute to do deep breathing. Then ask, “What do I need right now?” Try a quick walk outside, a call to a friend, or five minutes to journal.
  2. Move. Try yoga, walking, dance, or any form of exercise which helps reduce stress.
  3. Use your tribe. If you feel overloaded ask a friend or your partner for help.
  4. Nourish your body and soul. Nourish your body with healthy food choices. Nourish your soul with inspiring activities – read a daily positive affirmation and practice activities that are soul inspiring for you.
  5. Embrace the word no. Your cup will quickly overflow without having boundaries. Just because you are physically capable of doing many things – PTO meetings, making cupcakes for boy scouts, or hosting that fundraiser doesn’t mean you have to. Ask yourself, “Which activity to I really want to participate in?” Then kindly say “No” to the others.  
  6. Get enough shut eye.
  7. ight"er the "r mental. Physical drops may be the morning tantrum from your two year old because you didnt Have daily electronic- free time. The overload of emails and social media are quiet triggers for stress.
  8. Connect with others.
  9. Practice gratitude. When our gratitude increases our ability to manage stress increases.
  10. Say "YES" to yourself. Remember: self- love is not selfish.