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Dr. Laura's Meaningful Psychological Services

Online Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, Mindfulness, CBIT, ERP, CBT-I, Behavior Consultation, and Treatment for Anxiety and Insomnia

Laura Van Schaick-Harman, Psy.D., BC-TMH

Blog

Blog

Focus on Social Media and Teens

Posted on September 26, 2022 at 2:40 PM

 

In continuation of last month’s theme of healthy technology use, I am sharing some additional information focusing on social media.

 

 

This article discusses some of the concerns about social media use and teens: https://www.apa.org/news/apa/2022/social-media-children-teens?utm_source=linkedin&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=apa-research&utm_content=youth-social-media

 

 

Social media can be very damaging to a child or teen’s well-being. Anxiety about checking likes/comments/post engagement, spreading of rumors, bullying, inappropriate content, ads, sharing of photos and conversations with unintended persons, etc. are hurtful and harmful. Ask a teenager how they feel about having social media and see their perspective on how it impacts their life. Please also remember, parental supervision of all online activity is necessary. Help your child to develop good habits with online activity. Review online safety information, remind them everything is treated as public and permanent, and consider delaying access to social media for as long as possible. Your child will really appreciate this down the road!

 

 

I hope you find this information useful.

Healthy Technology Use

Posted on August 29, 2022 at 10:30 AM

As families are preparing for the start of a new school year and peer pressure about getting a cell phone and playing video games may intensify, it is important to remember the importance of balancing technology use.


 

 

Here are some other helpful considerations from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

 

Healthy Digital Media Use & First Phone Readinesshttps://contentsharing.net/actions/email_web_version.cfm?ep=Wda7dLHy7d2HDwFVFCwnDZkPXcaibH1TccV9QrRk6INavsI4EiFgVMXYLe3INhHndR5BfzlAvOr_c87pU24GpXQrQXplb3F5nNAgWaFzz31FuBvP2f0HdB3wE-NBba3BkNQmHskUHm7S6BXC16bECg~~;


 

 

 

And some suggestions regarding the benefits of letting your mind wander without using your phone:

 

Instead of Pulling Out Your Phone, Let Your Mind Wander https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/instead_of_pulling_out_your_phone_let_your_mind_wander#.YwZVRmcOEtk.twitter

Healthy Screen Time for Families

Posted on May 24, 2022 at 3:30 PM

Many families have been struggling with managing screen time in their homes. It is important to consider several factors regarding the use of technology in your home. I have shared some resources below to help make decisions.

 

 

 

Your Child’s First Phone: Are They Ready? (American Academy of Pediatrics)

 

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/Pages/Cell-Phones-Whats-the-Right-Age-to-Start.aspx


 

 

Kids & Tech: Tips for Parents in the Digital Age (American Academy of Pediatrics)

 

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/Pages/Tips-for-Parents-Digital-Age.aspx


 

 

How can I help my child avoid eye and back strain from being on the computer? (American Academy of Pediatrics)

 

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/tips-tools/ask-the-pediatrician/Pages/avoid-eye-and-back-strain-from-the-computer.aspx?_ga=2.85105049.1699780078.1652216809-1568848915.1651001146&_gl=1*jybs79*_ga*MTU2ODg0ODkxNS4xNjUxMDAxMTQ2*_ga_FD9D3XZVQQ*MTY1MjIxNjgwOS40LjAuMTY1MjIxNjgwOS4w

 

 

 


My colleague and local psychologist, Dr. Anzalone, featured in the ABC special "Protect Our Children: Mental and Physical Stress" talking about the impact of screen time on kids and teens (last segment):

 

https://abc7ny.com/protect-our-children-abc7ny-wabc-tv-special/11769066/

 

 


Glow Kids Tech Addiction Research

 

http://www.drkardaras.com/research.html

 

 


Resources from: InfoaboutKids.org Developed by APA Divisions

 

https://infoaboutkids.org/relationships/screen-time/


 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope these are helpful.

Turning Red

Posted on March 22, 2022 at 4:20 PM

I was totally in after the first trailer I viewed. Turning Red is a movie that highlights and depicts some relevant social and emotional connections in a parent-child-family relationship as well as among peers. This film also highlights cultural traditions and diversity in a beautiful way. I will try and avoid spoilers as usual. Here goes....

 

For the average teenager, what would be SUPER embarrassing? If you guessed a parent unexpectedly breaking school rules to show up unannounced to bring you a forgotten (super) personal item in front of all your peers, you would be right. If you guessed a parent showing your crush (who has NO IDEA you feel this way) pictures you drew of them in an effort to protect their teen, you would also be right. You can watch the full movie for some more examples and hopefully laugh (or cringe).

 

Another element I loved about this movie- it is set in the early 2000s. For those of us who were teenagers in the 90s or early 2000s, the film’s references are very relatable. The protagonist and her main group of friends are really into a boy band (If you don’t already know this about me: BSB 4eva!) and this is a primary focus of making decisions as a growing teenager. Friends develop a plan to earn money to go to a concert and learn some surprising things about each other, their families, and peers.

 

A central theme in Turning Red is the idea of feeling, identifying, and managing your emotions. When strong emotions are experienced, there are resulting behavioral and physical changes. We see the valuable impact of unconditional acceptance, relaxation, and mindfulness on present experiences and character development.

 

As a parent, it is natural to want to protect your child. Our kids grow up so fast. The days can feel like they last forever sometimes but the years pass quickly. Adolescence is a time of growth, testing of limits, exploration of independence, learning about family culture, and discovering of one’s own belief systems. It can be so rewarding yet difficult to observe this process and guide your teen without being overbearing.

 

I hope you consider watching Turning Red and enjoy it. Maybe you will be able to relate to some of these themes!

Play

Posted on February 28, 2022 at 9:15 AM

What a joy it is to see children playing at a park, playground, in school, and at home. This unstructured time is important for cognitive, emotional, social and physical development. As adults, we sometimes forget the power of play in childhood (and in our own lives).

 

I love seeing the joy of exploring the world, nature, and new friends at the park or playground. It is fun to watch my boys and other kids learn to roll down big hills again and again. Simple, pure, childhood fun.

 

I encourage you to get outside and play. Adults can have fun too! Laugh with your kids, roll down hills, and play tag.

 

We can play inside too. Resist the urge to use or give a screen. Try a puzzle, book, board game, or conversation. Here are some more suggestions:

 

 

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/work-play/Pages/Indoor-Play-Ideas-winter.aspx" target="_blank">https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/work-play/Pages/Indoor-Play-Ideas-winter.aspx

Play and Connection

Posted on August 26, 2021 at 12:25 AM

This may be one of the most amazing videos I have ever seen. Play is so important for our children (and adults too!) and often overlooked. Play can be simple, real, unstructured, interactive, cooperative, and imaginative. Play is important for leaning, problem solving, and cognitive development. Have fun playing!


https://www.ted.com/talks/molly_wright_how_every_child_can_thrive_by_five/up-next#t-441795

Parenting Self-Care

Posted on June 23, 2021 at 8:00 AM

Balancing parenthood with any other aspect of life is a challenge. Becoming a parent presents some amazing opportunities to face anxiety and stress. Through it all and during whatever stage of parenting you may be at now, taking care of yourself is essential. Here is an excellent article with some practical and realistic strategies for self-care as a parent.  https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/Pages/Finding-a-Self-Care-Ritual-That-Works-for-You.aspx" target="_blank">Finding a Self-Care Ritual That Works for You

Digital Wellness

Posted on May 27, 2021 at 5:20 PM

To avoid spoilers, read this post by Dr. Kanaris, sex therapist and psychologist, first. It’s not what you think! https://cyberinfidelityhelp.com/a-love-letter/

 

 

Then, read on...

 

  

Is technology serving you well or do you feel like you are being controlled by your phone, emails, social media, or other screens? There are excellent ways that technology can be a wonderful tool. We can connect with people in real-time across the world, keep in touch with teachers and students or start therapy. We can learn about almost any subject, and track our steps, food and water intake, sleep, and mood. We can make new friends, date, and work. I challenge you to check in on yourself- is technology a tool or your boss? How is your digital wellness? https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_technology_can_be_part_of_a_happy_life?utm_source=Greater+Good+Science+Center&utm_campaign=a9b4cd037d-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_GG_Newsletter_May_25_2021&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5ae73e326e-a9b4cd037d-50850427

Beginning School During Challenging Times

Posted on August 26, 2020 at 3:20 PM

As we are preparing for a new school year and are making decisions for our families, ourselves, and careers, we may feel anxious, stressed, or tired. This is to be expected given the unique stressors we are facing right now. Together, we can manage this.

 

My hope for this school year is that we can:

 

-practice resilience, patience, and kindness

 

-be thoughtful, considerate, and informed

 

-be reasonable, logical, and rational

 

-appreciate hard-work, dedication, and energy

 

-be flexible, fluid, and adjustable

 

-make decisions that are the best for our individual needs and family circumstances

 

-have fun, learn, and grow

 

 

Whether it is in-person learning, remote instruction, online schooling, or homeschooling, we can be better and stronger together. Let’s show kindness to each other, ask questions, follow guidelines, offer help, accept help, and be reasonable with expectations and demands. Have a great school year!

Starting School For Parents and Kids

Posted on September 24, 2019 at 11:50 AM

My oldest started Kindergarten earlier this month. While I have seen many families make this transition professionally, going through it yourself is so powerful and can be very different.


There is so much for families to cope with during this time. There are grown-up anxiety, worries, planning, scheduling, and emotions. There are child-size worries about making friends, who to sit with at lunch, how much work there will be, and when will they be able to go back home again.


Letting go of your child is good, healthy, and important. We can prepare them to be strong. We can teach them to be a hard-worker. We can show them how to work through conflict. We can model how to cope with big feelings. We can show them how to accept other children. We can demonstrate compassion. We can help them solve problems.


We will grow right along with them. As parents, we can grow stronger, more hard-working, and a better conflict resolver. We can cope with our big feelings more effectively. We can accept others, even when they are different. We can show compassion. We can be better problem solvers.


Thank you to all of the teachers and school staff who are working so hard to develop resilience and academic strengths in our children and who are keeping them safe.


Have a great school year!

When to Worry About Your Child's Worry

Posted on August 19, 2019 at 3:45 PM

Will you pick me up on time?


Can I sleep in your bed?


Am I going to get sick from touching that?


Are monsters real?


Do I have to go to school?


Has your child asked you one or more of these questions? These are examples of worries that are being communicated to a parent. How do we know which are normal and expected worries and which are excessive and disruptive? How should we respond to worries? Does my child need therapy?


For answers to these questions and detailed background information about anxiety, which is a normal human emotion, and anxiety disorders in children, watch this webinar for parents: https://adaa.org/webinar/consumer/when-worry-about-your-childs-worry


Wishing you all a healthy and brave start to the school year!


The Secret Life of Pets 2

Posted on June 24, 2019 at 5:35 AM

Do you believe the world is a terrible and frightening place? Are you nervous each time you go to a new place? Do you stress when your children separate from you? Are you scared to take risks? Do you have trouble relaxing?


These are just a few of the elements depicted in the new The Secret Life of Pets movie.

I won’t give you any spoilers in this post, so don’t worry!


Easier said than done, right? Worry is so common and a hard behavior to break. However, it is very treatable and it is possible to live a more worry-free life.


The Secret Life of Pets 2 depicts how anxiety can develop, how we can be overprotective of our loved ones, and how we can make our world really small. The movie also shows how important and beneficial challenging worries can be.


If you are a parent, child, or just movie-going lover, go ahead and see this movie. Then challenge yourself to face a fear!

The Importance of Play

Posted on May 22, 2019 at 4:35 PM

Play is so vital and important for both children and adults. For several years in my practice, I have observed many families rushing from school to multiple after school structured activities for multiple children with multiple conflicts. Kids express feeling anxious and overwhelmed. Our high achieving students struggle with balancing clubs, sports, and HW and when to turn down additional responsibilities. Parents struggle with which opportunities to take and pass on.

This Ted Talk illustrates the importance of play from a biological perspective and the relationship between play and mental health.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bg-GEzM7iTk" target="_blank">http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bg-GEzM7iTk

Whole Child Learning

Posted on April 22, 2019 at 1:40 PM

Yes, just yes! This month, I am sharing a presentation by Dr. Hynes, Superintendent of Schools in Patchogue-Medford. This talk provides some insight into whole child learning, mental health, physical health, social emotional growth, and raising children to be successful and healthy adults.

https://youtu.be/qczA5SLhxEY

Sesame Street

Posted on January 17, 2019 at 12:35 AM

Sunny days, sweeping the clouds away. Gosh, I really like Sesame Street. Maybe it’s the Nostalgia of familiar songs (“1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10..11, 12”;) and characters. Maybe it’s the high-quality programming that provides information useful and helpful to young children. Maybe it’s the fact that I don’t have to worry about inappropriate ads or content when my children watch or read a Sesame Street story. Whatever it is, Sesame Street is an approved and celebrated aspect of childhood in my book.



Sesame Workshop has a meaningful way of tackling difficult and serious topics and can really make a difference with the population who views it. There are many families and children struggling with hunger and homelessness right now all over the world, including our own neighborhoods. Take a look at the https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/12/health/sesame-street-homeless-muppet-bn/index.html?utm_source=CNN+Five+Things&utm_campaign=3fa1cedc8e-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_12_12_12_56&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6da287d761-3fa1cedc8e-86111485" target="_blank">link to learn how Sesame Street helps kids to understand and cope with this part of life.



May you always find yourself with shelter, not be hungry, and be able to make this world a bit kinder.

Screen Time

Posted on September 18, 2018 at 12:10 AM

The question of how much time children and teens should be spending on screens is a common concern for parents. We live in a technology driven world. Children are immersed in advancements early on, both at home and in the classroom. But how much is too much? Where is the line drawn between appropriate, helpful, and purposeful time using screens and inappropriate, excessive, and harmful time engaged with screens?

 

These resources outline some recommendations and useful information regarding the use of screen time in families. It is my hope that each family can develop an appropriate media plan and can enjoy using technology to advance social-, emotion-, and cognitive-growth, and connection with the world.

Digital Guidelines: Promoting Healthy Technology Use for Children- American Psychological Association

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/media/Pages/default.aspx#planview" target="_blank">Family Media Plan- American Academy of Pediatrics

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/Pages/Where-We-Stand-TV-Viewing-Time.aspx" target="_blank">Where We Stand: Screen Time- American Academy of Pediatrics

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/is_screen_time_toxic_for_teenagers?utm_source=Greater+Good+Science+Center&utm_campaign=0ed365ab9b-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_08_28_03_50&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5ae73e326e-0ed365ab9b-50850427" target="_blank">Is Screen Time Toxic for Teenagers?- Greater Good Science Center


It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Posted on June 18, 2018 at 3:35 PM


It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Did you know that Mr. Rogers has had an impact on childhood development for over 40 years? I am sharing a briefhttps://youtu.be/fKy7ljRr0AA" target="_blank"> video of Mr. Rogers from the late 1960s that illustrates several important aspects of childhood and the impact us grown-ups have on children.



As you watch, consider the role of these factors in your and your children's lives: trust, media, violence, coping with emotions, problem solving, communication skills, and kindness.



Then, catch an old episode of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood or the newer spin-off, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood.



How do you want to raise your children? What lessons are we teaching kids with popular media today?

Parenting: New Perspectives

Posted on October 16, 2017 at 1:00 PM

As a parent of a preschooler and an infant, I have developed a different perspective of many elements from my professional training. I didn't really truly know how challenging parenting can be until I lived it.


Here are just a few concepts that I have gained a new and different appreciation for after becoming a parent:


How challenging managing typical toddler behavior can be.

How stimulus control, when children respond a certain way to one stimulus, (I.e., one parent) and a different way to another, affects behavior.

How easy it is to take non-compliance personally.

How easy it is to resort to yelling.

The pressure to do more.

The pressure to do less.

Increasing awareness of possible judgment.

Increasing awareness of parenting expectations.

How intense sleep deprivation really is.

The challenges faced when planning child care.

How every second of your life must be accounted for.

How exciting a child- free 30 min trip to Target can be.

How exciting witnessing childhood milestones can be.

How often we check and make sure our children are breathing.

How easy it is to say "stop" and "no" instead of "keep the plate on the table" and "yes, you can have some after dinner."

What rushing truly is like.

How spit up and a poop explosion can dramatically affect your schedule.

How precious sleep is.

The importance of family time.

The importance of prioritizing your marriage.

The desire to have multiple roles.

How much anxiety can be present when making parenting decisions.

How scary ER visits are.

The challenges of caring for a sick child.

The challenges of caring for a healthy child.

How deep love can go.


Our appreciation of life events and circumstances change as we have more experiences throughout our life span. I am eager to see how my perspective changes in these areas as my children grow.


How has your perspective changed?

Changing Your Parenting Perspective

Posted on July 17, 2017 at 1:00 PM

The way we think about our world, experiences, past, present, and future matters. For this reason, I am sharing this interesting article I came across about the way we think about parenting. I hope that you find it as inspiring and helpful as I do.



Being the parent of a toddler is not an easy task. For those parents out there, I am sure you can relate. Days can be long. Nights can be short. Sleep can be lacking. Energy can be completely sapped. During these challenges, however, are tiny little eyes and ears soaking up how you approach stress, your experiences, and how you model coping skills. This includes how you parent. Little ones are paying attention to so much more than we think.


 

This article highlights a pivotal change in thinking as a parent- the true privileges we experience in the day-to-day moments as a parent. I hope that it challenges you to change your perspective and embrace the fun and difficult moments in the day.


https://www.parent.co/two-words-can-transform-parenting/" target="_blank">The Two Words That Can Transform Your Parenting


Through A Toddler's Eyes

Posted on October 10, 2016 at 8:00 PM

For those of you following this blog for a while, you may remember a few years back when I wrote a piece about taking day-trips for families. While hopefully helpful and interesting, that post was written from a different perspective- the outside observer.

This month, I returned to these same two locations I initially visited, but this time as a mother. How wonderful it is to see the same exact thing from a different perspective. In my case, through the eyes of a toddler.

Being able to see the world around us in a new way is truly amazing. I never noticed how colorful certain fish were or how big a pig could be. My toddler was able to point out different details and offer amusement, saying "wow" at some cool things that we as adults may take for granted.

Of course, traveling with a toddler also presents a reminder about how important self-care is. As adults, we may be on the go all the time and constantly push ourselves to complete our tasks or make the next appointment on-time. With a toddler, however, we can slow down. We can linger here and stare there. We can and should take breaks for potty and food and shade.

We are also reminded that we can see different sides to things. There are many perspectives to each experience in our life. Going to the same place we have been to before but with different people can change the experience. Hearing someone else's viewpoint on their role in a scenario can help us understand the experience better.

We can see the whole world differently. We can care for ourselves, our families, and friends. We can see the moon, the clouds, the trees, the fish, the animals, the grass- everything- in a whole new way. Try seeing the world through a young child's eyes for a while. I bet it will be amazing!