PW Elementary School Counselors

November 2021

A note to our families:

Hello Port Washington Elementary Families.


It is hard to believe we are already in November. As school counselors, supporting mental health is not only our job but our passion. In this month’s newsletter, we share some effortless ways to practice gratitude with your family, and just in time for Thanksgiving. We tend to spend time focusing on what went wrong in our days and not what went right. Making this simple shift can elevate our moods, improve our sleep and make us feel better all around. Incorporating this simple practice into your children’s lives now will benefit your children for years to come.


We are thankful for the opportunity to work with your children and work in this wonderful community. We are always here to support you and your families.


Happy Autumn and Thanksgiving!

When your child has BIG feelings ...

Try not to say ...

  • You are fine.
  • Get over it.
  • It was only a joke.
  • You're being dramatic/overreacting.
  • _(Name)_ wouldn't have reacted this way.


Instead, try saying ...

  • Your feelings are valid.
  • I will do my best to support you through this.
  • It is okay if you are feeling upset.
  • I can understand why that was upsetting/scary/hurtful/etc.
  • I am listening, and you can talk to me about it whenever you are ready.


Tips from @INSTITUTEOFCHILDPSYCHOLOGY

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Holidays: A time spent mindfully...

As parents, it is natural to worry that we don’t spend enough time with our children. Between work and all the other life responsibilities, the end of yet another month comes in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry! The studies reinforce that although the “time” spent with children is important, quality of time is much more important than quantity of time.


Holidays are a great opportunity to gather as a family and catch up with each other. Children can benefit from spending high-quality time with parents and caregivers. As adults, we can find simple ways to connect and spend time that makes sense for our lifestyle and the relationship. For example;


  • Preparing together and having meals (or snacks) at the same time,
  • running errands together,
  • going for short walks,
  • staying in bed snuggling,
  • reading a story as a family,
  • or simply playing with our children even for a short period of time can make a big difference on their academic achievements, behavior, and emotional well-being.


It is important to turn off technology when we spend time with our children - try not to text, answer calls or scroll through social media for an agreed time-frame. However, holidays do present a great opportunity to gather as a family and watch an age-appropriate movie or a T.V. show. When choosing content for children with varying ages, it is advised to consider the emotional maturity of the youngest viewer in your household. With popular shows readily available for viewers of all ages, it is important to filter options carefully and avoid exposure to anxiety-provoking content that is designed for mature audience.
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Do you know what your children are watching on T.V.? Here is some VERY important information about the popular T.V. Show Squid Games:

Squid Game, the gruesomely violent South Korean series that’s become a Netflix megahit, is clearly not appropriate for children. But that isn’t stopping many kids from being exposed to it.

Teenagers are bingeing episodes of the show in which characters compete to the death in a series of games. Younger kids have been spotted playing copycat games on the playground.

It’s notoriously difficult to keep kids from seeing adult shows that explode the way this one has. Kids hear about something that sounds exciting and feel left out or uncool if they haven't seen it. And Squid Game is all over TikTok and YouTube, not to speak of show-themed games on Fortnite and Roblox.

Parents are struggling with how to respond to younger kids who are begging to watch it. Should you watch it with them? And is it okay for teenagers to watch?



Younger kids


No one should watch Squid Game until late adolescents with or without parents sitting next to them, recommends David Anderson, PhD, the head of School and Community Programs at the Child Mind Institute. It’s too violent for children and tweens, he argues. And if they protest the show being banned, he suggests helping them understand why you are making that choice.

“The level of violence is horrifying — more than most shows,” says Dr. Anderson. “It’s a murder fest with the premise that out of over 400 participants, there can only be one survivor.”

Dr. Anderson dismisses the idea that the show is redeemed by offering commentary on income disparity. The appeal of the show is all adrenaline rush, he adds. “It’s people who are desperate competing to the death for the amusement of the ultra rich.” It's rated not appropriate for kids under 16.

Common Sense Media notes that Squid Game has strong acting and sleek production values but is extremely violent and very weak on positive messages or positive role models. “Parents need to know that the level of violence is very intense in Squid Game. Characters are systematically tortured and killed for the sadistic pleasure of a game master. Adults have sex, and there are threats of sexual violence: Women are grabbed by the hair and beaten. Themes concerning the highs one gets from gambling, winning, or conning money are a main focus."

Common Sense Media acknowledges that it will appeal to some: “Fans of dystopian thrillers will enjoy this series. Sensitive or younger viewers should avoid this one.”



Teenagers


Of course teenagers are famously drawn to dystopian fiction, which often seems to resonate with their experience of their lives as a high-stakes competition. Almost 10 years ago, The Hunger Games was also a huge hit. But The Hunger Games was based on a young adult novel, intended to be consumed by teenagers. Yes, competitors were killed in those games, too. The Hunger Games was far less violent and had positive role models — including the teenage heroine Katniss Everdeen — and positive messages.

If teenagers are going to watch Squid Game, it makes sense to watch with them, to understand what they’re seeing and reflect on the content. But whether or not you do that, Dr. Anderson recommends talking to them about it, as you would any disturbing content. He suggests focusing on how it makes them feel.

In part the purpose would be to identify kids who are having recurring, unwanted thoughts about things they saw in the show, or images that have stayed with them. Those kind of things can become triggers for anxiety and are a good sign that kids should stop watching because the show isn’t healthy for them.

But the broader purpose is to prompt teenagers to think about how the show makes them feel, and to make good choices about what they watch. If Squid Game is thrilling to watch but leaves them feeling drained and down, they might want to choose instead things that leave them feeling better

Dr. Anderson notes that when they watch can be a relevant issue. “Watching a disturbing and suspenseful show like Squid Game at night can interfere with sleep, and that in turn can mess up your performance on that science test or in that soccer game the next day.”

He also notes that teenagers tend to make better decisions about screens and content during the day. They’re more likely to reflect on whether something is healthy to watch. They’re also more likely to be pulled away by other responsibilities or get called to dinner, so the spell is broken. We all tend to be less inhibited late at night, when we are tired and alone, he notes, which makes us vulnerable to bingeing rather than sleeping.

If your kid wants to watch a show famous for its “mature” content, encouraging them to make mature decisions about when to watch it is appropriate.

And, as always, do your best to model this advice, too — and tailor your watching habits with an eye to the message you want to send.

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How to Practice Gratitude & Improve Your Family’s Mental Health


By: Datta Munshi MD, FAAP

As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, its effects on our everyday lives feel never-ending. As parents, we want to provide our children with a sense of consistency and normalcy in the middle of a time filled with uncertainty, fear, and change—not an easy task to accomplish.

We are all grappling with the ever-changing rules and demands placed on us by our "new normal" life at home, school, and work. It is mentally and physically exhausting work that often has no tangible reward. We may not be able to change this reality at the moment. However, we can focus our energies on "controlling what we can control" and practicing gratitude for the events—no matter how small—that enrich our days.



The habit of gratitude can help us get off the treadmill of everyday life and acknowledge the small victories that we all have every single day.



Reasons to be thankful: the health benefits

A growing number of studies have looked at the impact of gratitude on our overall health. The results show benefits to both our physical and emotional health. A recent study highlights the direct relationship between gratitude and happiness among young children.

Luckily, gratitude can be added to our daily routines without increasing our "to-do" and "to-learn" lists.

Beyond thanks: 5 ways to nurture gratitude in children

Teaching polite manners, such as saying "thank you," isn't the only way to promote gratitude in children. Here are some tips to help build a habit of gratitude in your children.

  1. Focus on what went "right" each day. Take a couple of minutes at bedtime to write down or talk about at least one thing, no matter how small, or one part of the day that you and your family are grateful for. Studies have shown that gratitude improves sleep quality and decreases symptoms like unexplained aches and pains. By focusing on the positive parts of the day, gratitude helps set us up for a positive outlook for the day to come.

  1. Don't save conversations about gratitude for Thanksgiving. Whether driving back home or enjoying a family game night, talking about the people you are grateful for in your life—and why—can go a long way. Think about positive traits in others that make us feel grounded, loved, and give us a sense of security. Reminding ourselves of those high-quality relationships can help us manage anxious and sad thoughts more effectively.

  2. Promote sincere verbal or written expressions of thankfulness. Creating a habit of thankful expression helps to increase self-esteem, mental strength, and positive social behaviors—such as helping, sharing, and volunteering. All of these are vital to strengthening our resiliency, a trait that we all need right now.

  3. Find ways to help others in need. It's important to encourage children and teens to take active steps in providing service to their communities. Help them find causes that they are interested in, such as volunteering for a nursing home or raising money for charity. By participating in such giving activities, they will gain a sense of purpose and develop skills that will help them succeed in life.

  4. Be a role model. One way to teach your children to be more grateful is by actually being more grateful yourself. Show them your appreciation on a regular basis and they will learn to follow in your footsteps. You can start by modeling good behavior and practicing positive discipline techniques.


Remember

Spending just a few minutes a day to practice gratitude with our families can have a positive impact on how we address stressful situations life unexpectedly throws our way. It is especially effective as part of an overall family wellness plan that focuses on healthy eating, sleeping, screen time habits, and daily physical activity. Regular check-ups with your pediatrician are also a wonderful opportunity to further discuss gratitude and other ways to improve your family's physical and emotional resilience.

Be sure to talk with your pediatrician if you have any concerns about your child's health and wellbeing.

Why Gratitude Matters During a Pandemic

It can help us focus on what's important, maintain perspective, and stay resilient.

By Sweta Bothra, Lead Therapist at InnerHour, a Mental Health Platform


The world is not the same as before. As the pandemic continues to spread, negative information is all around us. Now more than ever, it is a lot easier for us to overlook the good that surrounds us and focus on the bad.

Unfortunately, human beings are wired to pay attention to the negative. We suffer from something called negativity bias; this means that we are primed to pay more attention to the negative aspects of a situation. This wiring is more of a survival instinct and is most definitely not a bad thing — after all, when we recognize something dangerous or threatening in our environment, we are more likely to take action to deal with it. At the same time, this bias can get in the way of our happiness.

Decades of research suggests that negative attitudes and feelings can adversely impact your mental and physical health. Scientists have even found that stress can affect our chromosomes in a way that causes us to age more quickly. This, in turn, shortens our lifespan. Additionally, studies have also found that negative feelings can cause abnormal immune system functioning and hormonal imbalances in the body.

Gratitude: a buffer

One of the easiest ways to protect your mind and body from the negative effects of stress is by practicing gratitude. According to the Cambridge dictionary, gratitude can be defined as “a strong feeling of appreciation to someone or something for what the person has done to help you.”

Being grateful comes with a host of different benefits that can serve to make your life more meaningful. Studies show that expressing gratitude can boost social interactions, reduce depression and anxiety, and even increase resilience in the face of stress. Individuals who express gratitude are more likely to have lower blood pressure, better immune system functioning and improved quality of sleep. In fact, they’ve also been found to become more attentive, generous, and compassionate towards others.

Let’s look at the benefits of gratitude in detail.


Gratitude improves your relationships

Gratitude makes you appreciate things others do for you. It helps you become aware of the generosity of the giver. Expressing this gratefulness can help other people feel valued and cared for, and this in turn can boost your relationships. Feeling connected to others can in turn increase your happiness even further.


Gratitude makes you less materialistic

Research shows that being materialistic reduces your ability to acknowledge the good in life. But the good news is that you can override this with gratitude! When you start valuing what you already have rather than constantly wanting more, you let go of materialistic desires that label you as entitled and privileged.


Gratitude boosts your self-esteem

Becoming aware of the good that surrounds you can help you let go of insecure feelings that make you feel low. Moreover, when you are kind to other people they will most likely express the same emotion towards you in return. This creates a sense of satisfaction which automatically contributes to a healthy self-esteem.


Gratitude makes you less self-focused

While thinking about yourself is certainly not a bad thing, focusing on nothing but your own happiness and interests can be problematic. Practicing gratitude makes you become more compassionate and empathetic towards how others feel. Helping others feel valued, in turn, has a positive impact on your own well-being.

When it comes to gratitude, even something as small as saying “Thank you” can make a big difference. The key to building a gratitude habit is to practice appreciating others regularly — whether that’s writing a thank-you letter to a colleague, getting a meaningful gift for your family member or simply smiling at a loved one.

When you can open your eyes and become aware of things that are positive in this world or in your life, you will experience a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment. This doesn’t mean that you live in a state of denial and ignore the negatives. Instead, in the midst of all the negativity and chaos, gratitude can help you remember all the good things that life has in store for you.

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