Five Family Fun Activities for Fall

By Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S

Of all the seasons, autumn is probably the one that has the hardest time looking itself in the mirror; let’s face it, summer is a tough act to follow. But, despite not being as warm as the summertime, as new as spring, or as famous for snow days as winter, autumn has a lot to like. It’s not difficult to fall for fall.

This is especially true for parents. Why? Because autumn is a season that offers many activities that you can’t find any other times of the year (take that, July!). And it’s not just about Halloween, either. Sure, a holiday centered around candy may be a kid-favorite, but, to truly embrace the festivities of fall, we sometimes must think outside the box of Milk Duds.

So, what are the activities worth embracing with your child? They include:

A leaf party:  Chores don’t have to be bores! A leaf party is a great way to merge yard work with fun. And there’s no wrong way to throw this type of get together. One idea is to rake up your fallen leaves into giant piles and let your kids and their friends jump in and play. You can also have them collect the leaves and encourage them to create collages, paintings, and whatever else their imaginations desire. It’s an hour or so of enjoyment that won’t cost you a dime: this one’s on Mother Nature.

Build a birdhouse: Fall is a time when many birds pack up their birdie bags and head south. But not all birds migrate. Those that fly to warmer climates do so because of food shortages and not because of weather. This allows some birds to stay put: if they have local eats, they have no reason to leave. Building a birdhouse with your child is not only a great way to bond, but it’ll provide shelter for a feathered friend through the cooler months of fall and into autumn. Who knows, maybe they’ll thank you by not pooping on your windshield.

Take a hayride: Hayrides are offered all over the country during the fall – they’re offered as part of festivals, on farms, or as free-standing events. They’re a unique way to spend an afternoon embracing the beauty of the turning seasons.

Go on a nature walk: A nature walk is an ideal way to spend time with your children while embracing educational opportunities. Take a walk around the park or a hike in the mountains and point out the colorful leaves, identify the different trees, and discuss why the seasons change.

Go apple picking: While many types of fruit reach their prime in summer, apples are late bloomers: their harvest begins in August, September, and October (depending on the type of apple). So, grab your kids, grab a bucket, and make a day of it. Picking apples from an orchard is much more fun than picking them from the produce aisle.

There are many things you can do with your children this autumn. The above are just a few suggestions. Remember, ultimately, the activity doesn’t matter: it’s the time spent together that counts.

Want more tips and tricks and a parenting fix? Check out The Parenting Playbook for blogs, posts, and articles. Interested in play therapy? Learn more about us and our play therapists!

Want to Reconnect? You Must Disconnect First

by Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S

Technology has transformed our lives, allowing us to carry the world’s information inside of our pockets. The questions, the wonder, the how to do something – the answers are at our fingertips.  All we have to do is turn on the phone, television, or computer.

In many ways, this is wonderful.

But, sometimes, we become so dependent on technology that we don’t see what’s right in front of us. We forget how to talk to each other face to face, how to solve problems without turning to Google, and how to pass around ideas……like they did in the olden days. Yes, technology giveth and taketh away: it connects us but it disconnects us too.

As parents, our love for technology has particular duality: it entertains, educates, and inspires our children. And it’s convenient, which is something that benefits all moms and dads. Yet there can be too much of a good thing – kids who are overly dependent on computers and television may encounter learning difficulties, diminished socials skills, and face addictive behaviors later in life. So where does one draw the line?

A good place to start is to remember the old adage, “Everything in moderation.” This doesn’t just apply to things like sugar and – sadly for parents – coffee, but it applies to screen time as well. To help you kids acclimate to this idea try the following tips:

Encourage education: Some shows and games are meant to do nothing but elicit laughter or interest. Others are designed to help with math, reading, history, and problem-solving. Encouraging the latter helps your child’s development. This isn’t to say that old Tom and Jerry reruns don’t have their time and place, but encourage a variety, including programs designed to teach.

Leave your phone alone: It’s difficult for parents to discard their phones: if something happens, we want to be contacted as easily as possible. But, let’s face it, many of us are also too dependent on technology, so much so that we nearly start growing phantom devices when we go without our phone for any length of time. Carrying a cell phone is one thing; it’s a necessity. Constantly using your phone is another. Remember that children learn most from observation. If they see you texting and surfing, they’ll assume there’s no reason they can’t either.

Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness is an ally to parenthood: it keeps us tethered to the moment. This is something we want; moms and dads know that moments become memories so very quickly. For most of us, mindfulness isn’t something that comes naturally; it’s a skill that must be developed and cultivated. Practicing yoga or meditation are two ways to do this. If your child’s old enough, consider practicing with them. But if they’re too young, they can still benefit from your mindful ways. As mentioned above, they learn by watching you: children see and children do.

Advocate for the great outdoors: Increasingly, children are spending their young lives inside, more likely to climb the platforms of Donkey Kong than climb the oak tree in the front yard. More likely to watch Dora the Explorer than do some exploring of their own.  Not only are the great outdoors conducive to exercise and health, but they help with learning too. Kids were made to play and move, after all.

Disconnect intentionally: A great way to connect with your kids is to designate some portion of the day as “no technology time” – turn off the TV, power down the computers, and leave the phones at their charging stations. Then engage with your child in a way that doesn’t require an outlet – talk to them, play with them, draw or paint, take them to the park. Do whatever you need to help them see that there’s a whole world out there….and it’s not just the world wide web.

It all comes down to this: if we want our children to disconnect from technology, we have to give them a really good reason to reconnect with something else.

For more information about play therapy or to learn about our services, please contact us.



New to Therapy? Helping Your Child Adapt

by Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S

Children don’t face the exact same stressors as adults – “grown-up” challenges such as managing credit card debt, raising a family, working through marital issues, and navigating job challenges haven’t yet become part of their life experience.  But the feelings those stressors cause – fear, anxiety, sadness, and uncertainty about the future – have no age limit.  Growing up is not easy and, no matter the age, life is full of challenges that bring along a myriad of emotions to sort through.

Because of this, children may need extra support in overcoming their challenges and working through their emotions.  And sometimes the way to provide this support is through play therapy.  Play therapy isn’t just for a child whose family has had a loss or divorce.  It isn’t just for a child struggling in school, with peers, with impulse control, or self-esteem issues.  Play therapy is really for all children because it is an opportunity for any child to learn about themselves- their emotions, their thoughts, their behaviors.  Play therapy is a way to help children discover who they are – who can’t benefit from that?

As a parent, you may have decided that you want your child to have a play therapy experience, but maybe you aren’t sure how to talk to your child about it.  You may be on board thinking, “let’s go to therapy”; yet they think, “let’s go to the toy store.” So, how do you encourage your child to warm to the idea? The following tips will get you started:

Be positive: Giving your child the opportunity to explore themselves, discover themselves, and be themselves is a gift. As a parent, if you can hold this perspective around therapy rather than painting it as punishment or even a medicine to cure something that is implied to be broken, your child will inadvertently feel the privilege and be more open to the decision.

Be truthful: There are a few factors making truthfulness highly important. First, children know when you’re hiding something and signs of incongruence in the environment register as a threat to our body’s nervous system. Insincerity stokes the fires of the imagination – they’re going to therapy, but the secrecy makes them assume they’re going somewhere awful.  Secondly, openness invites security and helps your child understand that the therapist is on their side. Honesty and authenticity are the best policies for a reason.  It is often helpful to tell your child that they will be spending their own special time with someone who loves to help kids and loves to play with them.

Don’t minimize your child’s concerns: Therapy elicits a variety of emotions – some kids may be scared, some may be hesitant, some may be resistant, some may be indifferent, and some may be excited. Whatever emotion your child is experiencing, acknowledge it. Even if you know therapy isn’t scary, your child may not be as convinced: the fear or apprehension they feel is very real and it needs to be seen, heard, and accepted.

Give your children control: Most things in life are out of a child’s control (heck, most things are out of a parent’s control!), but providing your kid with a sense of power also provides them with a sense of safety. Helping your child understand that during the session they are in charge is very helpful (you will have to make sure that this is in line with the style of play therapy you are seeking out before you tell them this).  They get to decide what to play with and how they would like to spend their time while in the session.  This provides them with a choice and allows them to feel less trapped.

Tell them what therapy involves: The brain is an extraordinarily complex organ that, ironically, wants things to be simple. It likes to know what lies ahead – this is true for the young and the old. Our nervous systems perceive the unknown as a threat, therefore predictability is key. Kids who aren’t sure what therapy involves are more likely to resist the playroom. Their brains are designed to resist, essentially saying, “I don’t know what to expect. No thanks, I’ll pass.” Explain the process and help them acclimate.  Asking your child’s therapist how they would like you to explain the therapy to your child is a very important part of the intake process.

Remind them of the endgame: Many parents seek professional help because their child is unhappy or exhibiting behaviors suggestive of a struggle. Reminding your kid of the endgame helps them see why therapy is necessary. And this doesn’t mean finding your child’s happily ever after. Rather, it’s helping the child learn acceptance, learn to self-soothe in times of pain and challenge, and grow as an individual. It’s about introducing the child to their authentic self and allowing them to know and love who they are.

For more information about play therapy or to learn about our services, please contact us.


End of School Blues? Helping Your Child Accept Change

By Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S

The end of the school year is an exciting time for kids – no more teachers, no more tests, no more learning about the Wild West. But not every child jumps for joy as they rush from the hallways into the arms of freedom. Some have mixed emotions: they’re glad and sad all at once.

This is often most prevalent in children who are on the brink of big changes – they’re leaving elementary school to go to middle school, they’re leaving middle school to go to high school, or they’re graduating altogether. It also shows up when children realize that there will be no more sitting next to their best friend at lunch and no more getting to play with their pals at recess.  It shows up when they have to let go of their favorite teacher.  It’s under these circumstances that things may rapidly turn, going from “school’s out for summer” to “school’s out…. bummer.”

Ending are hard for most people, kids included.  And along with the goodbyes comes a handful of emotions and behaviors!  Parents may find themselves scratching their heads thinking, “Why isn’t my child excited that school’s over?” or “Why is my child acting out – they don’t have homework, they get to sleep in, what is going on?”

So, how do you help your child close one chapter and start another? How do you help them say goodbye to the places they know and hello to the places they’ll go?

First, keep in mind that some children run headfirst towards change: your child might be so excited for what comes next that they’ll practically sing the “So Long, Farewell” song from the Sound of Music as they run down the school’s steps for the last time. If they do, relish in their excitement.

But, if your kid is a little hesitant, experiencing a hard time with finality, or acting out now that freedom has set in, consider the following:

Let them feel their feelings: Change elicits a lot – sad tears, happy tears, fears, and cheers. While you might be inclined to speak only of the positive, be careful not to minimize how your child truly feels. Doing this may make them assume their feelings are incorrect, and that can lead them to ignore their emotions altogether.

Create a memory map: A memory map is anything that takes your child back to the moments they’re longing for. You can create a map by putting together a scrapbook – pictures of teachers or friends or that cool mural inside the gymnasium. If your child is older, consider scrapping the scrapbook for something more technical – a video collage, for instance.

Set a routine: Routines offer comfort to many people. Your kid may find that a routine provides them with the security they seek – it makes the unknown known by telling the child what to expect. This doesn’t mean your routine needs to be entirely rigid, but guidelines surrounding chores, outdoor activities, and television may help your son or daughter adapt. And once kids adapt, many of them thrive.

Plan playdates: When a child leaves school, it’s natural for them to miss their teachers or classes or inanimate objects – your kid may miss their desk or the vending machine that always gave them two candy bars when they only paid for one. Still, what most truly miss are their friends. That’s why planning playdates can soften the pain change brings. Make it a point to set up regular friend-fests!

Find out what you can about the upcoming year: Your son or daughter is moving to a new grade (and maybe a new school) – this is scary because, as mentioned above, it involves the great unknown (which, to kids, is really the “not-so-great” unknown). You can reduce their fears by learning what’s on the horizon. Find out who their teacher will be and get their class schedule. You may even take your child on a school tour, walking the hallways with them as they acclimate to their new surroundings.

Change is a constant in life – as a parent, you already know this. You know it’s an inevitability, up there with growing old and missing socks. Children learn this too – time marches on. Help them march on as well by acknowledging their feelings (the good, the bad, and the mad), creating a predictable routine in the interim summer months, and explaining the future. Kids, like all of us, can better accept when they know what to expect.

For more information about play therapy or to learn about our services, please contact us.


 Five Out-of-the-Box Ways to Connect With Your Child 

By Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S

We know our children – we raise them, we love them, we struggle with them, we grow with them. But, as the years go by, things change. From tiny fingers wiggling underneath bathroom doors to the slamming sound of bedroom doors, parenthood is nothing is not inconsistent.

The connection also changes as children become more independent. This isn’t a bad thing: it’s what we want – for our kids to spread their wings and fly. Besides, just because the connection changes, that doesn’t mean it weakens.

Yet, sometimes, the fostering of that connection requires a little creativity (and effort on our part). If you’re looking for some out-of-the-box activities to do with your child, consider one of the following:

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The Long Goodbyes: Giving Children Permission to Feel During Loss

By Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S

Change surrounds us. The leaves fall from trees, animals go extinct, birthdays come and go, people leave and people die.  Saying goodbye is part of our daily lives and yet we don’t always allow ourselves to really acknowledge the feelings that can come with these changes.

Recently, a school administrator approached me because she wanted help talking to her students as one of their teachers had just died.  I asked her what she was inclined to say and she told me that she wanted to acknowledge the loss and inform her kids that they may see teachers sad and possibly teary-eyed.  She also wanted to give the students permission to feel sad too.

After she finished explaining to me what she wanted to share, which was incredibly compassionate and full of heart, I asked, “What if a child doesn’t feel sad?”  She looked at me for a second a bit puzzled.

“What if a child is feeling relief or anger or confusion or nothing at all?  How will those feelings be addressed?” I continued.  Being an incredibly wise administrator, she understood what I was trying to tell her.

The rest of our discussion was an exploration of how to give children permission to feel the “full range” of feelings that might arise as a result of loss.

The truth is goodbyes aren’t a one-emotion-fits-all experience – they often come with mixed emotions. On one hand, they represent the conclusion of an experience with someone who is not coming back or at least going away temporarily. For some, this can cause sadness, anger, and regret.

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Learning Bracelets and the Importance of Movement in the Classroom

By Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S

“Mom, I am struggling because I can’t concentrate in class!”

This is something most children have said at some point – maybe they feel that science is boring, math is too hard, or history is so last year. But, while it’s a common utterance, it’s also one that speaks volumes.

Every time I hear a child express some version of this, a part of me feels incredibly sad inside – sad and curious.  Almost immediately, my brain wonders just how much the child is allowed to regulate/take care of their body during school.

Children need to move – they’re made to climb, to run, to jump, to skip. And this is by design: moving helps them learn.  When a child moves, the brain better integrates the data that it is taking in.  Movement is brain food – the mind needs it to thrive.

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Body Image & How You Can Help Your Child Develop a Healthy Relationship with Food

Parents & Caregivers: Positive Body Image Starts at Home!

By Chelsea Hester

In a world that is populated with diets, food advertisements, and models of only certain shapes and colors, children of all ages are being bombarded by external messages about who they ‘should’ be and what they ‘should’ look like daily. These messages, if not countered by a supportive home environment, can put unnecessary pressure on children to be someone they are not. Childhood is a time for exploration, discovery and authentic expression. Unfortunately, this process can be stifled when a child feels inadequate or as if there is a standard they must meet, specifically in regards to their body shape or food preferences. Over time such pressure can put children at a predisposition for depression, anxiety, disruptive behavior, isolation or eating disorders… just to name a few. Having negative self-esteem makes life harder on many levels.

As a parent, there are small shifts you can make at home to help your children feel safe and loved for being who they are. Although acceptance would ideally happen on all levels–body, mind, and spirit–these tips are centered on helping your children feel comfortable in their bodies and creating a healthy relationship with food.

  1. As a parent, place your attention where you want your children to place their attention. Try to focus on your child’s strengths and inner qualities, rather than his/her outer appearance. Rather than offering compliments based on temporary conditions, try naming the qualities in your child that are unwavering and start on the inside.

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