Back to School, and it Feels so…Uncertain!

This school year students, parents and teachers are all dealing with a significant amount of transition and uncertainty about what the future holds. Mental health support during this time is crucial both at home and at school! Here are some tips to help this transition for our children, Adapted in part from the UNICEF USA Speaker Series, “Coping Through the Pandemic: Supporting Children’s Mental Health in Emergencies.”  and the National Council for Wellbeing: Mental Health First Aid.

1. Give children a safe space to share their feelings

Mirroring — reflecting back a child’s experience — is one of the most important parenting skills and oftentimes not recognized as how helpful this can be for our children. If your child seems troubled, pick a quiet moment and say, “I’m noticing a different vibe lately. I feel like there’s more going on than you’re sharing.” You can do this on the ride home from their sports or while you have a moment together in the kitchen. Sometimes parents feel like they have to set the stage for the perfect “talking” environment, but it’s really not necessary. For younger children, engaging them in creative activities, like playing and drawing, can help them express any difficult feelings in a low-key, supportive environment. 

2. Listen more, talk less

Children often take their emotional cues from the adults in their lives, so it’s important to remain calm, listen to children’s concerns, speak kindly and reassure them. Let your child lead the conversation. Think W.A.I.T. — Why am I talking? — before you speak. I love this acronym and use it all the time. Really listening to our children, means not thinking about what we are going to say in response. I hear from teen clients often that they really just want their parents to hear them out, not try to solve every single problem they have.

3. Recognize anxiety is completely normal

Point out that everyone has a rough patch now and then. It’s understandable, particularly during a pandemic. Anxiety is invisible; worry is a symptom. Learning to tolerate uncertainty is a developmental skill. Remind your kids that when they have a problem you are there to help them work toward a solution. Their feelings are valid no matter what they are, and you can help them work through their emotions in a healthy way. It also helps to keep an open dialogue with your child’s teachers and school administrators, especially if you’re feeling anxious.

4. Don’t hide your own stress

Model healthy stress management whenever possible. When you feel overwhelmed yourself, share that information with your kids. Say, “I’m not handling my stress well right now.” Remind them that emotions change, and with teens sometimes it feels like emotions change every hour. No one is okay all of the time. It’s okay to have a bad day, a bad hour or moment. A conversation to remind them that a feeling is just a feeling and it will pass it important and often resonates with children and teens.  

5. Give children time to adjust

After so much time at home seeing only immediate family members, young children returning to preschool or daycare may take longer to warm up to unfamiliar teachers and caregivers. Mask Wearing keeps us safe but makes it harder to communicate feelings and provide reassurance. Work with your child’s teachers to build new routines that help children make strong connections and successfully transition from home to school. Just a reminder that we are all different, and some of us may need more or less time to adjust to all of the transitions.

6. Encourage kids to pace themselves

Students eager to be back in the classroom and see all their friends may find their new in-person school day more exhausting than they anticipated. Help them build in study breaks and downtime.

7. Address COVID-19 fears honestly

With pediatric COVID-19 cases on the rise and reports indicating more young people are struggling with long COVID-19, many kids are bound to have questions and concerns about going back to school during the pandemic. Find out what’s bothering them and give direct, age-appropriate answers to their questions. If you don’t know the answer, look it up together using trusted sources like the UNICEF and World Health Organization websites.

8. Emphasize self-care

It’s important to think about mental health as part of a continuum of total health. When a person’s not feeling well, they need to go to the doctor. If you think your child might benefit from seeing a therapist, encourage them to give it a try, even just once. Self- care can look like many things, from taking a nap, having some down time, to attending sports practices or spending some free time with friends. Remember that modeling point mentioned earlier, if you take care of yourself and talk about it with your family, your kids are more inclined to engage in self-care as well.

Upcoming Online Grief Support Group!!

Healing Grief, A Virtual Workshop

4 Weeks:  May 13, 20, 27, and June 3, 2021

11:00 am until 12:30 pm

Cost: $200

For registration please contact:

 Jamie Schellenberg, LMFT, CLC

(925) 290 7681


Michele Shimamura, LMFT, CT

(925) 683-8463

Group counseling for grief recovery offers support for the wide range of thoughts and feelings experienced after losing a loved one.  It provides an opportunity to share your story, connect with others, learn effective coping skills, integrate your loss, then move forward with your life. 

You are not alone!

Fair Play..Buy this Book!

Fair Play by Eve Rodsky is a book I recommend to all couples that are looking for better methods and approaches on managing the day the day tasks and stressors that we all have in some capacity. The author has a clear and insightful way of looking at our expectations of one another, how we communicate and what brings us joy. I really enjoyed this read and am utilizing her strategies both personally and professionally!

Couples That Work; How Dual-Career Couples Can Thrive in Love & Work

Thought I would share this book I am reading, thanks to a friend who thought I would enjoy it both personally and professionally, and boy was she right! Most couples I work with and know in my personal life are doing their best to manage dual careers. In her recent book, Couples That Work, Jennifer Petriglieri spent five years researching and interviewing over 100 dual-working couples from all walks of life in over 30 countries. The author explores three life transitions that couples are typically challenged with throughout their career paths. In learning more about these challenges, there is also guidance on maintaining health relationships, personal growth and how to best support your partner. This piece stood out the most for me, as I often see couples struggle with effective communication.  I also enjoyed how at the end of each chapter Jennifer summarized the key dynamics of each transition and certain tools and exercises. This book resonated with me in various ways and I highly recommend!

Gratitude & Positivity During the Holidays

Wishing everyone a peaceful holiday season. One that no doubt looks and feels a little (or a lot) different from years past. Just a little reminder of the benefit of gratitude and positivity for good mental health! We have all been through so very much in 2020, some more than others but nonetheless a lot of change. Change is scary and something most people are naturally a little resistant to embrace. I think after this year we may all be a little better at dealing with and accepting change! Thinking about what we are grateful for, or changing a negative thought into a positive, helps with all of the transitions we are experiencing. So take a moment, write down what you’re grateful for in a journal and share some positivity with a friend or family member. I hope these quick activities help bring you and your family some peace and joy at the closing of 2020.

Giving Tuesday

First Tuesday after Thanksgiving, aka Giving Tuesday!

There are so many ways to give back to your community. This is such a challenging time for everyone, whether its with finances, lack of food, clothes, or resources for medical needs. So of all years, this is one of those years to do what you can, if you can. It does not have to be monetary donations either. Giving Tuesday began in 2012 and since its start there are countless organizations and retailers that take part and give back to nonprofits and charities.

Here is a link with great suggestions on how to give back today (and any day):

Worrying Taking a Toll on your Mental Health?

Worrying, overthinking or overanalyzing lately?? You’re not alone!! The good news, there are various simple habits to help decrease excessive worry and with it allow more control over your thoughts! Here are a few:

Stop trying to read someone’s mind. Usually when we guess what someones thinking, we are off! Instead try to communicate what you are thinking. It’s good practice and with it you will gain a deeper relationship by asking for what you want and having those open conversations.

Remind yourself that people generally don’t think of us as much as we think of us…sorry but its true. Just like you people have a lot going on and have their own thoughts. As much as we analyze what we said, how we said it, or a choice we made, chances are they are not overthinking a choice you made or an interaction you had with them. So don’t waste your time overthinking it!

Acknowledge your worry and LET IT GO! Easier said then done, I know. But if you consciously acknowledge your worries by writing them down or telling someone you trust to hear you out (and not try to solve anything for you), you can free yourself from your worry.

Learning to stop or reduce your worrying does not come easy, and these are only a few of various healthy habits to practice. Like most new habits it takes consistent practice and patience with yourself. Don’t forget to also practice kindness…to you! Positive self-talk goes a long way and can also help with decreasing your worries.


Athletes & Mental Toughness

I had the privilege the work with a team of female teen athletes over the weekend…The focus, mental toughness!! Having mental strength is as important as physical strength for an athlete. Just like training our muscles, we need to train our minds to think positive, to build resiliency, take risks, use visualization and support our fellow teammates. This needs to be an ongoing conversation and like any other skill, mental toughness has to be continually practiced until it becomes part of our routine and more natural way of thinking.

Grief & Violent Crime

Today marks 15 years since my father was violently taken from me, my family and our community. My grief as a victim of a violent crime is profound, even after all of these years, and at times it is all consuming. The fact that he was taken in a violent manner, with no warning, and no just cause adds another layer of challenging emotions. I wanted to just take a moment to acknowledge that there are many of us out there who have been through something like this. Maybe someone you know, probably many who you do not. Just a reminder that we all have something we are working through at any given moment. You always have the choice to be kind, to smile at someone just because, or to do a good deed…it may go farther than you think.