Have you ever noticed how summer can feel busier and more hectic than during the school year? How does this happen? For many families, especially KITM families, what could be the calm, quiet time of year, turns into more running around, scheduling of separate vacation times with mom and dad, changed drop off and pick up times, and more activities than can fit in the day. How can parents and children better handle the stress of it all? First of all, it is important for parents to remember that too much scheduling, or too little scheduling, can be stressful for the children and the adults. It is important to find a balance between staying active, keeping normal routines, and not overbooking everyone, including the adults, to the point of distress. Stress can take a toll on us physically and emotionally. It becomes more important as we get older to manage our stress in positive ways, but helping your children learn how to do it now, will provide skills they will use as they continue to grow into healthy adults.
KITM groups and individual therapy help children not only learn how to cope and deal with the divorce, but also how to cope with a variety of other situations and stressors. A lot of methods and skills can be introduced in group and individual therapy and then practiced at home. Here are just a few examples:
- Visual imagery: Picturing in your mind’s eye that calm, peaceful, relaxing setting or place you like to be; so for example, the sandy beach, the calm water, a sunny day, can all be images we find to be relaxing.
- Progressive Relaxation: Tensing and then relaxing a group of muscles; this helps us pay attention to what our bodies feel like in a state of stress, so that we can get back to a relaxed state. This might look like curling your toes tight for 10 seconds, and then relaxing them; squeezing your fists tightly, and then relaxing; shrugging your shoulders up to your ears, and then releasing.
- Deep breathing: Slow, deep breathing calms the nervous system and helps our bodies and minds slow down. Imagine blowing up a balloon, inhaling deeply through your nose and then exhaling slowly and purposefully through your mouth.
Here are some examples of easy stress reducers: take a bike ride or walk with your kids; go swing at the park; cool off in the hose or sprinkler while you are watering plants; make a picnic (or an indoor picnic on our rainy summer days); take a break from electronics.
So, even if you can’t stop to sit back, relax, and have that ice cold, refreshing, glass of lemonade, at least hesitate for a moment, take a deep breath, and visualize it. Relax and have a great rest of summer!
-Patty Matz, LPC, KITM Therapist