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Naming Emotions

Child abuseThe Family Institute’s Family Tip of the Month discusses coaching your children to identify and name their emotions in times of distress – and how it can aid them in the future.

From this month’s tip:

“…when we use precise labels for our feelings, we understand more about what’s happening to us emotionally, which then can lead to identifying a smart (and healthy) course of action.”

Read the entire Tip of the Month to learn how making a habit of naming emotions can help your child take on stressful situations.

For additional Tips and to sign up for our Tip of the month, visit our Tips webpage.

The Family Institute offers affordable counseling for families, couples and individuals. Learn more about our services on our website.

To get support at The Family Institute, visit our Find a Therapist page.


Homework Tips for Parents

Father helping his son with homeworkAs the school year begins, most households will experience a change in their treasured “family” time. Evenings together that were unstructured and relaxing all summer are now dedicated to completing homework assignments.

For parents of all children — and especially those with learning and behavioral challenges — this nightly occurrence can be quite stressful. There are, however, many things parents can do to make the “dreaded homework hour” less difficult for all involved. Today, TFI’s Education Specialist, Barbara Resnick, MS, offers hints for parents to make homework a success this school year.

Some good ways to make the process less stressful include:

  • Check the nightly planner when your child comes home so you see how much time should be devoted to homework.
  • Establish a homework time and routine.
  • Reduce the number of extraneous materials present in the homework area.
  • Clarify assignment expectations by reading and highlighting instructions.
  • Re-explain and/or paraphrase the assignment if your child is unsure about what to do.

While assisting your child with nightly assignments, it is important to monitor the amount of time needed for completion. If you feel that the time is excessive or that your child clearly does not understand the assignments or requires total supervision in order to complete them, share your concerns with the classroom teacher. This difficulty could be an indication that your child may need more formalized academic support from the school (homework accommodations can be provided informally as well). Parents should feel comfortable having their child stop working on an assignment if completing it is turning the evening into a disaster.

Although most parents are not formally trained as educators, the homework time spent together can be used to teach a variety of learning strategies such as:

  • Teach prioritizing of assignments, i.e., completing those that are most difficult first, completing assignments that are due tomorrow before working on a long-term project.
  • Explain homework time management. Ask your child to estimate the time it will take to complete an assignment. Set a timer and compare the estimated time with the actual time.
  • Break longer assignments into manageable steps.
  • Review the assignment expectations prior to reading the material. This will help focus your child as he/she reads.
  • Relate concepts in a reading story to your child’s personal experiences.
  • Break down multi-step math problems.
  • Create graphic organizers for writing assignments. Graphic organizers visually break written assignments into short segments and specify what information should be in each section. (Ideas for graphic organizers can be found online.)
  • Act as a scribe when your child’s assignment requires an extended response.

While supporting your son or daughter with their school work, be mindful of his/her self-esteem. Acknowledge efforts that your child makes to complete an assignment, and not just the result. Remind your child that everyone makes mistakes and that nobody is perfect. Be sure to explain that a person can survive when making an error, and share an example of your own mistakes and how you overcame them. If a project comes out less than perfect, monitor for signs of frustration and keep in mind that these signs may be secondary to anxiety and insecurity over perceived task difficulty.

Here’s to a wonderful school year!!

Learn more about Barbara Resnick, MS, on our website.

The Family Institute offers affordable therapy and assessment services at our Evanston, downtown Chicago, Westchester and Northbrook locations. Visit our website to learn more.



5 Last Minute Tips to Help You Enjoy Your Holidays

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woman_wrapped_in_xmas_lightsThe Holidays are nearly upon us, and as we barrel through any last-minute shopping trips or grocery runs, Family Institute staff therapist and Director of Research Lynne Knobloch-Fedders, PhD, provides some overarching tips to help make the holiday season more relaxing, meaningful and stress-free for you and your family.

Tip 1: Understand and focus on what makes the holiday season special for you.

Spend some time thinking about what make the holidays special for you. This will make it easier for you prioritize what is really important, and will prevent you from getting distracted by unimportant details. In addition, try to make your expectations of the holidays as realistic as possible. It helps to develop a sense of humor. When things go wrong (which they will), it is helpful to be able to laugh rather than cry.


Tip 2: Maintain your normal routine as much as possible.

Sometimes the holidays are stressful simply because they require that we break out of our normal routine. Make an effort to keep to your normal schedule as much as you can. If you have regular exercise, sleeping or eating patterns, try to stick to these as much as possible to avoid disrupting your body’s natural rhythms.


Tip 3: Give yourself the gift of self-care.

The holiday season often is extremely draining because of all those extra activities. It is important for you to take good care of yourself during the holiday season. Eat well, exercise, get plenty of sleep and take “time out” to enjoy things that you love.


Tip 4: Develop family rituals.

Rituals can be fun – and meaningful – ways to celebrate the holiday season. Traditions passed down through the generations can become cherished memories. But the key is to keep rituals simple – they do not have to be elaborate to be meaningful.


Tip 5: Practice good communication with your family and friends.

Holiday stress can also be caused when misunderstandings or disagreements occur between family members or friends. It can be tempting to avoid creating more conflict, so we often tend to ignore the problem and hope it goes away. However, a better solution is to address your concerns directly with your family or friends in a gentle, but honest, manner. Encourage them to be open with you as well. Work together to find a solution that is satisfactory to everyone.


The Family Institute offers affordable, effective mental health treatment for families, couples and individuals. Learn more about what we do on our website.

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