Paint The Stars Art Therapy, LLC

the Healing powers of creativity for children, teens and parents

Have an Aca-Awesome School Year:

5 things YOU can do to prep for a better school year!

#Parents and #teens listen up! The commercials have been out since July and the sales are ongoing, which means … it’s #back-to-school time! You can just hear the moans and groans. Here is a quick list of things you can do not only for yourself but for others to ensure a fantastic school year.

1. Do unto others: You hear this all of the time, but how many of you actually follow it? It’s not as hard as you may think. In your #school, just like in every other school out there, there are kids that are treated differently. They are treated differently based on many factors: how they look, act, dress, who they hang out with, what their parents do, where they live, how popular they are, etc. And sometimes they are treated different just because. Usually the just-because reason is due to someone believing they have to be #mean and put others down in order to feel good about themselves. You may have been treated poorly at one time or another or perhaps you have always had an easy time making #friends and having fun at school. Either way, you affect people. The looks you give, the words you say—it all affects people. You are old enough to take #responsibility for your actions. Our advice is to only exhibit #positive actions and then you don’t have to be concerned with much of anything else.

Side note: If you are more concerned with your appearance and reputation than you are with treating people nicely, you will always be striving to be something you are not. Don’t act a certain way to please those around you; if you have to do that to be accepted, chances are you never will be.

2.Create your own #goals: Sure, your parents may have goals for you for this year, such as getting certain #grades or trying out for certain #teams. But what are your goals? You are more likely to achieve your goals if they are small and attainable (within reach). You also are more likely to feel accomplished and #happy if your goals are achieved. If your own goals clash with those that your parents have set for you, it may be time to have a conversation with them. Most parents would love to see some #ambition and #motivation from their #children and they will want to help you achieve your own goals. Some examples of good goals to set: Create a work schedule that is easy to follow and use; sign up for 3 after school activities; meet at least 5 new people; maintain a B average through the entire first quarter/semester; or get up and dressed in the morning without mom/dad having to wake you, to name a few.

3. Don’t let the pressure build up: We work with so many kids that put unnecessary #pressure on themselves to be the best at everything, not including the pressure they already feel from #friends, parents, #educators, etc. This is unrealistic and can lead to many serious issues. It is so great to have goals, as we discussed earlier, but as a rule of thumb start with 5 reachable goals and walk away. If you continue piling up things you need to do and how well you must do them you will start to spin in circles. The number one cause of #anxiety that we see within our practice from September to May is #fear of #failure with relation to school. And do you know what happens to those teens that seek to #overachieve? Grades fall, #attention goes out the window and their stress level goes through the roof. Not exactly a pretty picture is it? If you start to feel pressure early on in the school year have a friend, parent, sibling, teacher, professional (anyone!) help you figure out what you are most worried about and how to work on it. Don’t try to do this on your own, ask for help. If you attempt to figure it out on your own all you are doing is giving yourself one more thing to do that frankly you may not be able to handle. Never be ashamed to ask for help OR to say “I need to slow down.” Pressure gets to everyone at some point or another, you are not alone!

4. Be Yourself: You know what the best part of the 80’s were? It wasn’t the neon clothing, synthesizing music or the Rubik’s cube. It was that you could wear anything, say anything, be anything and have it be cool. You didn’t care about what everyone else was doing, you had style. This is one of the best ways to keep yourself happy. Create your own #image of who you want to be. Dressing a little crazier than those around you? No big deal. Sticking up for yourself and others, speaking your mind? If you feel it go with it. Rockin’ purple hair? Own it! (And parents, some words of advice: Choose your battles carefully. Purple hair dye that washes out or fades eventually really isn’t that bad especially when compared to what else is out there!) #Confidence is one of the most beautiful things a person can exhibit. The more you love and accept yourself the more others will BUT more importantly why do we care what others think? Be you, be happy.

5. Make good choices: Believe it when we say you have plenty of time to make adult-like decisions once you are an adult. Enjoy being a #teen. Have fun with your friends, be safe, take advantage of your #education. If you have to hesitate, even for a moment about whether a decision will be good or bad chances are you are hesitating for a very important reason. Trust your gut and listen to that smart voice inside your head. It is true that sometimes that voice may sound like #mom and #dad (it does that for a reason) but the decisions are all yours to make. Once a decision is made it is usually impossible to take it back. No amount of crying, lying, begging or blaming will save you. And parents, your teens will make plenty of bad decisions. Don’t bail them out or make excuses for them, help them learn from it and better themselves.

Here is to a great 2014-2015 school year! May the odds be ever in your favor…

Star-Tip for OCD

Star-Tip for OCD: Many people do not know that #OCD is a form of #anxiety and that #children as young as 4 or 5 can exhibit symptoms. Typically a child will not be diagnosed until they are older than 5. Have you ever noticed that your child must keep things in a certain way or order? Do they spend unusually long amounts of time to complete simple tasks? Do they speak up about fears regarding illness or germs? Does rushing or changing a routine often lead to a meltdown? Well, be it toys grouped together, what they choose to wear or the order in which they get dressed, how many peas remain on their dinner plate, etc.—These can all be signs of OCD. Additional things to look for: dry/cracked hands from excessive washing, picking at one’s skin/hair/lip, tapping or ritualistic movements, checking in on family members excessively or patterns regarding this behavior.

Many #parents may overlook these factors as a cute nuance but please don’t! OCD in children can often start slow and appear seemingly benign but it can also escalate quickly into internal counting, repeating of phrases as well as the appearance of negative thoughts or repercussions such as “If I don’t count to 5 before showering something bad will happen” or “I feel like someone will get hurt if I don’t wash my hands at least 3 times.”

The good news is OCD is very manageable and it is even possible to eliminate #symptoms completely. Breaking these routines is key and should always be handled by a professional. It is important to keep in mind that OCD can be #hereditary; if you or your spouse are aware that YOU exhibit these symptoms please reach out to get yourself help, which in turn will also help your kids! #therapy #childhood #obsessivecompulsive

Star-Tip for Divorce

Star-Tip for Divorce: #Divorce affects the entire #family beginning with the first arguments or discussions that set off the topic. To begin, your #children are more intuitive than you may realize. They know when you and your spouse are unhappy with each other. They almost always know when something is “wrong.” Whether you are involved in an amicable divorce or the nastiest of divorces, honesty and clear #communication is important. Be sure to explain that what is happening is between the #parents and is not a result of anything else.

You may get questions like “is daddy leaving because I spilled the milk on the couch” or other self-blame related questions. What you need to be careful of is being able to answer your child’s questions without taking the “divorce blame” and putting it on just one single parent. Remember, you and your spouse are divorcing but your children are innocent bystanders. They deserve a relationship with each parent that is willing to be a part of their lives. Speak often about the love that each parent has for the family and if your children are old enough to understand the concept of divorce ask them what you can do to make it easier.

If one parent is moving out some helpful suggestions may include keeping the same structure you had before but incorporating the separation. For example, if you and your spouse usually do the “bedtime routine” together then continue doing that. Whether the missing spouse is on the phone, via webcam or Facetime, technology can be very helpful during this chaotic transitioning period. Let your child communicate his/her #feelings the best way they can—through #play, #art, #music, etc. A simple request of “lets draw some pictures of family” can help alleviate confusion while expressing feelings of sadness or anger. If you are worried about how your child is handling the separation don’t forget to reach out to the professionals for some extra help. #divorce #feelings #parents #children

Star-Tip for Distraction

Star-Tip for Distraction: Hey you! Look up—remember me? I’m a conversation. Adults today are distracted non-stop by phones, jobs, TV, tablets, etc. Why would kids be any different? Let’s start there. #Kids take their cues from you. If you want a more focused child, be a more focused parent. How? Well for starters every family should have “power off” time. And I mean everyone in the #family. I typically recommend having a nice family dinner (no distractions: TV off, phones away, time for direct eye contact) and then having at least an hour of “no power” family time. And yes “no power” includes the TV so watching your favorite show as a family does not count! Some ideas would be playing a board game, reading stories, having conversations, going for a walk etc.

So now that we have diminished the general #distraction within the home, lets #focus on tips for the kids. When it comes to the little guys and gals in your life they need direction and #structure. In fact, they respond better when those two ideas are put into place. Start with eye contact: If your child wants, needs, asks for something they must make eye contact with you. When your child is speaking to you or anyone else they must be able to make and hold eye contact. You have to teach them how to do this and you also must be firm about it. Children, beginning at age 3, learn easily that they can get what they need from you just by asking and not by engaging with you. (Think of your son watching TV and yelling “can I have a snack?” You inevitably bring the snack so why should he change what he is doing?)

Engage in interactive role playing. You be the child and let your son/daughter be you. Keep your eyes glued to that computer screen or phone just like they would. They will understand why you get so #frustrated. Show them how you can change your ways from being unfocused to focused. Explain to them why it is important to try and stay focused. When choosing what to play with eliminate distractions around you. Playrooms can be a big bundle of distractions so help your child by asking them what they are in the mood to #play with. Explain that they cannot take out a new toy or game until the first is put away neatly. This slows down bouncing from one thing to the next. Lastly, I find that children who have “focus issues” generally have extra energy stored (nervous/excited/general energy). If you know your child is most distracted in the afternoon then after lunch choose a specific fun activity to help release energy (i.e. dance, jumping jacks, playing outside, riding a bike, etc.). #adhd #socialskills #play #therapy #parenting #children

Diary Box

Sometimes our #fears and deepest #thoughts are too difficult to talk about right away. Try creating a box diary where you can write down what you are thinking about, remove it from your mind and toss it in the box! Decorate the box to make it your own. If and when you are ready, pull the thoughts back out and talk about them OR destroy them! #arttherapy

Star-Tip for Overachievers

Star-Tip for Overachievers: Every parent wants their #child to be the best he or she can be. So when talking to your #children, it is important to choose your words carefully, as they have a tendency to hear and take things differently than you may have intended. For instance, your son may bring home an 85 on a test and you tell him how proud of him you are. But in the same breath you utter, “Maybe next time you’ll hit 90.” To your son, he may be hearing, “I’m not good enough” or “They are disappointed in me.”

The idea of #overachieving is not in itself a bad thing. There are some children that are more prone to #perfectionist behaviors similar to that of #OCD, and it is these children that you want to tread extra carefully with. You may not even say one single negative word to an overachieving kid and yet they will still put enough #pressure on themselves to #stress out. That’s because there is a constant voice in their head telling them do more, try harder, be better. Sometimes as parents we have to be the voice of reason no matter how tempting it is to have a child that wants to be perfect.

Pressure and expectations in #school get stronger and tougher each year. These stressful environments can lead to serious #mental and physical #health #problems. Be on the lookout for a child or #teen who often stays up late to finish work, shows outward stress symptoms such as severe nail biting or rarely chooses activities that allow them to relax or have fun. Remember to say how proud of them you are and that no matter what you always will be.

And never forget: Tell them to be a kid and have fun! The reassurance is always helpful. #Perfectionism #children #parents #anxiety #overachievers

Star-Tip for Sibling Rivalry

Star-Tip for Sibling Rivalry: Having one or more #child can be a blessing. Having one or more child can be exhausting! Especially when those children are #fighting. #Siblings are going to fight, this is inevitable and all part of normal functioning within a #family. Sometimes that “fighting” can reach levels which are unhealthy for the whole family. Put on your parent detective hats and be careful. Are they fighting for your #attention? Did your older child become more resistant and #oppositional as other children entered the household? It is hard to learn how to share a parent. I recommend having “special time” with each child. It should be the child’s choice so long as it’s not breaking the bank. Anything from an hour to an entire day is great! Does your child have an extra special toy that they view as more of a security blanket? Try not to force that child to share that toy with a sib especially if they are generally good at sharing. We try to impart the what’s mine is yours rule in our families but think of it as an adult; aren’t there items that are just yours that your child or spouse cannot use? That’s okay. Point out when one sibling does something nice for another sibling. Talk often about how special it is to have a brother or sister. If one or more child continues to be resistant and the fighting is getting worse as opposed to better look into individual counseling. Sometimes learning how to cope with a sibling is something best left to a professional. #siblingrivalry #parenting #family

Star-Tip for Nightmares

#Nightmares are common in #children of all ages regardless of trauma occurrences. Most obvious sign of nightmares is your child either waking you intentionally or by accident after having a bad dream. Other signs can include increase in fatigue and energy during the day, fighting more at bedtime, increase or change in nighttime bathroom habits such as wetting the bed with no prior incidences. As with many issues the above signs do not always mean your child is having nightmares. It is best to check with your physician or your child’s therapist to be certain. If your child has a nightmare do not invite them to stay the night in your room or worse in your bed. Stay with them in their room and help them make their room a happy and safe place again. Night-lights are always helpful but other possible ways to relieve their stress is to do a walk through of their room: check under the bed, in the closet, out the window, etc. Read a comforting story or sing a happy song to help them #relax. If your child requests you to stay with them try and sit in a chair close to the bed. By sleeping next to them or allowing them to sleep with you, you are only allowing their insecurities to increase and they will then become heavily reliant on your presence in order to deal with #stress. Sometimes it is helpful the day after to draw their nightmare or bad dream. I often do this exercise and I allow the child to change the monster or “bad guy” into something funny or silly. This is helpful for future bad dreams, “Remember how silly your monster looked in that purple hat and pink slippers we drew on him?” Recurring bad dreams can become problematic; remember to always reach out to your local #therapist with questions or concerns. #parents #sleep