Dr. Laura's Meaningful Psychological Services
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
Talking About Difficult Topics with Kids
|Posted on April 25, 2023 at 10:00 AM|
There are times when we find it difficult to explain a big concept about very real-life issues to a child we care about in our life. These topics may include poverty, divorce, stress, trauma, or grief. Sesame Street in Communities has a wonderful collection of resources available for free for families and schools.
I hope these are helpful resources for your family!
|Posted on February 21, 2023 at 5:05 PM|
Do you remember spending hours outside when you were younger? Maybe you enjoyed going for bike rides, walks, digging in the dirt, playing kickball, or swinging. I loved playing two-hand touch football in the street with any friends and friends of friends in the neighborhood. Someone would yell “car!” when they saw a vehicle coming and we would all move to the side, wait for the car to drive by, and then happily reset the play. We would be outside almost every day for several hours. We weren’t pulled by digital distractions like texting, or watching short videos being fed to us in an endless stream of content. We just were. We had fun, enjoyed fresh air, the company of others, and nature. We learned how to work together, build a team, solve problems, handle disagreements, learn about each other, and expand our communication skills. Today I enjoy taking mindful walks in nature as often as possible. During these times, I feel happy to see kids and teens still playing outside together. Riding bikes, meeting up at the local playground (and getting there independently-woo-hoo!) and taking walks together are all great ways to be outside.
Here is an article about the power of playing outside.
Pros and Cons Technology Use for Kids
|Posted on October 26, 2022 at 1:55 PM|
As we have been focusing on healthy technology use for the past few months, I am sharing some additional information to help guide decision making. This month’s issue addresses some pros and cons of technology use in children.
It is helpful for parents to be aware of the benefits and disadvantages of the technology available to their children. There are certainly positive aspects of advances in technology. Kids can learn new languages, connect with friends and family who live far away, maintain access to school resources and teachers when they have questions or difficulty, and can even learn a new skill like cooking, or playing an instrument. Children can also run into some challenging situations like online bullying, exposure to age-inappropriate images and videos, and screen addiction.
Here is some information discussing the pros and cons of technology use for kids:
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)
Kids & Tech: Tips for Parents in the Digital Age (American Academy of Pediatrics)
How can I help my child avoid eye and back strain from being on the computer? (American Academy of Pediatrics)
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):
Glow Kids Tech Addiction Research
Resources from: InfoaboutKids.org Developed by APA Divisions
I hope these are helpful.
|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!
|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:
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!
|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
|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.
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.
|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.
|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?