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Ask a TFI Expert: Talking summer camp with Hollie Sobel, PhD

Ask a TFI Expert: Talking summer camp with Hollie Sobel, PhD

With summer vacation in full swing, join us on TFI Talks as we explore all things Summer Vacation with insights from our expert clinicians.

Today, Family Institute staff therapist Hollie Sobel, PhD, discusses summer camp and ways to keep the stress and anxiety to a minimum.

There’s something for everyone

Today you can find a camp for just about anything.

If your child is interested in activities such as video games, camps with a gaming focus can be a way to work on social skills while partaking in a personal interest. Adolescents can attend specialty camps in areas of interest (e.g., computers) that can help them gain skills for a future career.

For children who struggle with mental health issues, there are camps geared toward specific issues such as Autism or ADHD. These unique camps give kids the opportunity to socialize and have fun while working on and through some of their issues. Since all the campers have similar struggles, it can help the children to feel like they fit in.

Sports camps (e.g, hockey, baseball, basketball, soccer) can help children to use their energy in productive ways. They can also learn teamwork and good sportsmanship.

There are plenty of different ways to work a summer camp into your child’s schedule. Try to find a camp that aligns with his/her interests and help create opportunities for growth and development.

Overnight camp

Overnight camp provides kids with new and exciting opportunities but can lead to a lot of anxiety. As the date to leave for camp approaches, parents may notice their child’s anxiety increases — the closer they get, the less they want to actually go.

Help ease the transition by reaching out to camp staff ahead of time, and work with them to get all of the necessary details in place, and ease some of your kids’ anxiety and stress. Many camps and camp counselors have experience working with parents and families during the weeks leading up to overnight camp.

Keep tabs on the anxiety.

It’s normal to feel some anxiety surrounding summer camp, as it involves meeting new people and going to new places. Some kids, however, will need more help with their anxiety than others.

Anxiety warning sign to watch for:

  • Difficulty separating from parents under typical circumstances
  • Clingy behaviors
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Somatic complaints (stomachaches, headaches)
  • Irritability
  • Statements refusing to attend the camp

Dr. Hollie Sobel provides individual, family, and group psychotherapy. Dr. Sobel has specialization in using researched-based cognitive-behavioral techniques with children and adolescents to improve mood, decrease levels of anxiety, and enhance functioning across home, school and social settings. She includes children/adolescents and parents in the treatment planning process, as family involvement is often important in reaching treatment goals.

To read Dr. Sobel’s full bio or make an appointment, visit our webpage.

The Family Institute offers a wide variety of affordable counseling care that treats whole individuals and their loved ones throughout the Chicagoland area. Find out more at our website.

Ask a TFI Expert: Hollie Sobel on kids and summer vacation

School's Out for Summer - Tablet ComputerWith summer vacation in full swing, join us on TFI Talks as we explore all things Summer Vacation with insights from our expert clinicians.

Today, Family Institute staff therapist Hollie Sobel, PhD, provides a few insights on making summer vacation less stressful and more productive.

Keep your child social

During the summer, children do not have the school setting to keep them social, and lose access to their social contact. Without this contact, children with social anxiety or poorly developed social skills can experience feelings of isolation during the summer.

For the socially active child, time off of school can lead to stress if he or she does not attend every possible social activity. This child may fear that he or she will lose their social status if they are not present at an event. This anxiety is present even their text messages (FOMO = fear of missing out).

Balance is the key, and parents have the opportunity to instill time management lessons.

Let your child have a break

Time off from school during the summer gives children the opportunity to take a break from the stresses related to the demands of school.

While children need structure to their days, and often have homework to complete over the summer, it’s important not to overdo it or be too rigid. Instead, summer vacation is a great time to teach time management and organizational skills to children. It’s important to have a balance of work and play time.

Plan ahead

Consider the following tips when planning for your child’s summer vacation:

Balance Structure and Freedom. Maintain a bedtime/curfew and a wake-time but don’t be too rigid. Studies show that keeping your bed and waking times within one to two hours of your daily routine during breaks shouldn’t interfere with your regular schedule.

Plan Ahead. Parents’ schedules are important, and often not as flexible. Remember to plan playdates ahead of time, work with other parents and/or family members to plan outings, and coordinate vacation time with spouses or other caretakers. Planning ahead can make the summer run more smoothly and reduce stress.

Recognize Teachable Moments. Take the time off as an opportunity to teach your kids time management, organizational and independence skills. For example, create stations where children can draw for a portion of their time, play with blocks for another portion, and so on, teaching them to move from one activity to another without requiring continuous monitoring by a parent.

Balance Family and Friends. Encourage less social children to reach out to peers and get out of the house. Look for activities that might suit them, or help them send texts or call friends to initiate plans. For overly social children, try to ease the anxiety that can come with trying to fill every moment with a social activity by encouraging moderation and balance.

Develop Traditions and Rituals. Having traditions and rituals help build family cohesion. Research shows that high levels of family cohesion and support are related to good coping skills.

Most importantly, use the summer to build meaningful, memorable moments with your kids.

 

Dr. Hollie Sobel provides individual, family, and group psychotherapy. Dr. Sobel has specialization in using researched-based cognitive-behavioral techniques with children and adolescents to improve mood, decrease levels of anxiety, and enhance functioning across home, school and social settings. She includes children/adolescents and parents in the treatment planning process, as family involvement is often important in reaching treatment goals.

To read Dr. Sobel’s full bio or make an appointment, visit our webpage.

The Family Institute offers a wide variety of affordable counseling care that treats whole individuals and their loved ones throughout the Chicagoland area. Find out more at our website.

Ask A TFI Clinician: How to Really Relax on Vacation

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August’s arrival may mean the summer is dying down, but many people take vacations this month. However, as we’re more connected than we’ve ever been via our smart phones and tablets, sometimes actually leaving work at work or home at home is nearly impossible — we check our emails and voicemails with ease and are constantly connected with our home lives via social networks and text messaging.

Today, TFI staff therapist Lesley Seeger, LCSW, provides tips on how to put your phone or laptop down, stay in the moment, and actually get away while on vacation.


 

It’s more important than ever — and also more difficult.

Today’s technology, while adding convenience, has made it harder than ever to get away from our daily lives, and harder to get away period. The little things add up — whether we feel the need to keep up with our children’s extracurricular activity sign up dates, check on work deadlines, or even return text messages from our families, unplugging on vacation has become increasingly difficult.

We are programmed to be available — to our jobs, our friends and our families — and often feel a heightened sense of responsibility as well as a need or desire. Often times, we may feel an obligation to get back to people because we are nervous we’ll be seen as less committed or a weak communicator if we don’t respond right away, for example.  Or, we may be excited about a future plan we are making and want to respond to that text confirming our commitment.  As a result, it becomes hard to just turn off our phones, even on vacation.

As a result of the mental stress surrounding what we “should be” doing, in many ways taking the time to relax on vacation is more important than ever.

Tend to the specialness of the moment.

Vacations are a special time — a time to get away, an opportunity to spend time with your children and loved ones, and perhaps be in a new place — and it’s important to allow yourself to be there. Often times, people try to do too much on vacation; they overschedule and make themselves too busy. It’s important to go into a vacation being flexible about what you may need: look at how many days you’ll be away and plan a couple of things you’d like to do, but leave the rigid schedule at home. Instead, allow for downtime, spontaneity and relaxation.

It’s also important to tend to your own needs and desires on vacation. Be flexible, but don’t sacrifice your own needs for everyone else’s. Vacation is a time where we can assert our independence and create boundaries if needed: It’s okay to not immediately text your mother-in-law back with trip updates if you want a break from the phone, and it’s okay to stay back for some alone time while your vacation-mates head to the beach for the day.  Communicating these things ahead of time may help assuage any misunderstandings or upset, and if you don’t realize what you need or want until the moment arises try to be as clear and collaborative as possible.

Tending to the specialness of vacations also requires stress management. If stressful situations come up, as they almost always do, be sure to deal with the problems as they arise. Problem-solve, talk through the issues and work together for solutions.

 

Refresh, rebalance, recharge, relax, reflect.

Remember that vacations require preparation and effort to truly be relaxing and enjoyable. Here are some tips to get the most from your vacation:

  1. Let people know ahead of time: Make a plan to let people know how long you’ll be gone, but also how to reach you in case of emergencies. Because we’re so connected these days, it can be easy to forget to plan ahead this way and instead just respond to requests and questions as they come. In order to avoid that sense of obligation, set boundaries and let people know the ways by which they can reach you in an emergency.
  2. Enjoy the challenge: Challenge yourself to turn off your phone, and try to enjoy the challenge aspect of it. It’s good to challenge ourselves — it helps us grow us individuals and stay in the present moment. It may be difficult, but that’s okay.
  3. Combat the anxiety: It can be anxiety-producing to cut off the connections we’re so used to. In these situations, it’s important to acknowledge and name the feelings and then validate them. Then, use deep breathing or other self-soothing techniques to calm yourself.
  4. Use mindfulness: Mindfulness can be a very important tool in staying in the moment and relaxing on vacation. When you feel yourself wondering about what’s happening at home or at work, acknowledge those feelings and thoughts, let them go, and bring yourself back to the present moment. Pay attention to the sights, sounds, activities and loveliness around you — really take advantage of the moment that you’re in.
  5. Decide what’s important to you: This is important in terms of setting boundaries and making sure your needs get met on vacation. It’s also important in terms of social media — many people use their phones as cameras, and as a result, immediately logging in to Instagram or Facebook to post those pictures is tempting. Decide your personal preferences with social media and weigh them as you go — if it’s important to you to post your experiences as they happen, decide in advance how you’ll handle it. If it isn’t important to you but you feel pressured to do so by others, decide how to handle that pressure while tending to your own desires.

 


 

Lesley Seeger, LCSW, is a staff therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University. She sees clients at the Chicago location and is a member of the Mindfulness and Behavior Therapies Program.

To read Lesley’s full bio or make an appointment, visit our website.

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

Ask A TFI Clinician: Transitioning to College with Adia Gooden, PhD

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The summer months often lead up to a transition, particularly for those still in school: new teachers, new sets of rules and, for kids transitioning from high school to college, entirely new schedules or, sometimes, places to live.

Today Family Institute staff therapist Adia Gooden, PhD, provides tips for both students and their parents as they prepare for this momentous transition.

 


 

It’s psychologically significant.

The transition from high school to college is psychologically significant because this is often the first time that most students are living semi-independently. This is particularly true for students who live on campus or go away for college. Additionally, during college, students must manage their schedules and workloads on their own.

These changes can cause anxiety. Students moving away for college may face anxieties about being far away from their home and family. Students may also experience anxiety related to making new friends and adjusting to a new environment.

Additionally, students often worry about whether they will be able to succeed academically at their college. Many high achieving students are accustomed to being the best students in their class, and going to a selective university can require students to adjust to being one of many high achieving students. Further, students who were not challenged academically in high school can sometimes face difficulties when they have to learn to study in order to succeed in more rigorous courses.

It’s a struggle for both students and their parents.

At times, students are allured by their newfound freedom and end up spending too much time partying and not enough time studying. A common misstep for students is to wait too long to ask for help when they are having difficulty in their first semester.

Parents also have their own struggles. Some parents have difficulty allowing their children to become independent and try to do things for their students that students should be doing for themselves.

It’s important for parents to come to terms with the transition of their child leaving home and attending college. They should acknowledge and process the range of feelings (e.g. sadness, joy, excitement, relief, anxiety) that can emerge through these transitions. That said, parents should be careful not manage their anxiety and other difficult feelings by trying to do things for their children. Parents should guide their children during the transition while giving their child the space to grow and learn to do things independently.

It’s manageable.

There are ways that students and families facing this transition can ease some of the struggle:

  1. Get Organized: Make sure you get your binders, notebooks, computer, etc. ready so that you know how you’re going to organize your notes and homework before school starts.
  2. Be Prepared: Parents should teach their children to do things like laundry and how to manage money before they move away.
  3. Do Some Research: Look into resources (counseling center, academic advising, tutoring, etc.) that students can access if they run into difficulty.
  4. Get Excited!: College is a great time of learning, growth and exploration—go into it expecting to have a wonderful experience.

 

Adia Gooden, PhD, is a postdoctoral clinical fellow at The Family Institute at Northwestern University. Dr. Gooden has extensive experience working with young adults who are in college and graduate school and transitioning in and out of school. She spent three years training at college counseling centers (University of Chicago and University of Southern California) and enjoys supporting individuals as they learn and grow during this stage of life.

Dr. Gooden is trained in several therapeutic approaches and utilizes The Family Institute’s integrative approach to treating clients. Dr. Gooden is genuine, empathic, and committed to promoting insight and growth among her clients.

To read Dr. Gooden’s full bio or to make an appointment, please visit our website.

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

Ask A TFI Expert: Summer Jobs & Summer School With Hollie Sobel, PhD

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This July, join us on TFI Talks as we explore all things Summer Vacation with insights from our expert clinicians.

Today’s topic is another way children often fill their time during summer vacation: with jobs or with school. For some kids, summer vacation isn’t full of seemingly endless days and vacations—there are opportunities for skill development and personal growth. Hollie Sobel, PhD, staff therapist at The Family Institute, provides today’s tips and insights on how parents can handle these two summertime responsibilities.

 


 

Kids need vacations too.

While kids need their own break from the obligations of the school year, summertime responsibilities are often inevitable.  While kids do need structure to their days, and often have homework to complete over the summer, it’s important to not overdo it or be too rigid.

Instead, the summer vacation responsibilities like work and school provide parents with the opportunity to teach time management and organizations skills to their kids. It’s important to have a balance of work and play time.

 

Determine what they need.

Some kids use summer school as a time to catch up, while others require instruction to maintain what academic skills. Other students, while not in summer school, have assignments to complete over the summer. When it comes to your child’s academic responsibilities, it’s important to determine your child’s unique situation and needs.

When it comes to summer jobs, it’s also important to assess and determine your child’s unique needs. The search for and maintenance of summer jobs gives kids the opportunity to develop their resume and interviewing skills. It also teaches them responsibility. However, don’t assume that your child knows the correct protocol for summer jobs—they may need extra guidance in determining when to follow up after interview, the appropriate outfit to wear on their first day, or how to request a change in schedule.

 


 

Dr. Hollie Sobel provides individual, family, and group psychotherapy.  Dr. Sobel has specialization in using researched-based cognitive-behavioral techniques with children and adolescents to improve mood, decrease levels of anxiety, and enhance functioning across home, school and social settings. She includes children/adolescents and parents in the treatment planning process, as family involvement is often important in reaching treatment goals.

To read Dr. Sobel’s full bio or make an appoint, visit our webpage.

The Family Institute offers a wide variety of affordable counseling care that treats whole individuals and their loved ones throughout the Chicagoland area. Find out more at our website.

Ask A TFI Expert: The Ins & Outs of Summer Camp with Hollie Sobel, PhD

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This July, join us on TFI Talks as we explore all things Summer Vacation with insights from our expert clinicians.

This week’s topic: Summer Camp. For many, the words conjure memories of lake swimming, tent sleeping and star gazing. But while it may lead to lasting memories, summer camp can also lead to stress for both kids and their parents: there’s the planning, the packing and the anxiety that comes with the unknown.

Today on TFI Talks, Family Institute staff therapist Hollie Sobel, PhD gives insights and advice for parents as they prepare their kids and themselves for summer camp.

 


 

There’s an option for everyone.

Today’s summer camps are varied and specific: You can find a camp for just about any specialty and interest your child may have.

For children who are mostly interested in more insular activities such as video games, camps with a gaming focus can be a way to work on social skills while partaking in a personal interest. Adolescents can attend specialty camps in areas of interest (e.g., computers) that can help them gain skills for a future career.

Additionally, for children who struggle with mental health issues, there are camps geared toward specific issues such as speech/language problems or ADHD. These camps are unique in that they give kids the opportunity to socialize and have fun while working on and through some of their issues.  Since all the campers have similar struggles, it can help the children to feel like they fit in.

There are plenty of different ways to work a summer camp into your child’s schedule. Try to find a camp that aligns with your child’s interests and help create opportunities for growth and development.

 

Plan ahead.

Overnight camp provides kids with new and exciting opportunities, but can lead to a lot of anxiety. As the date to head to camp gets closer, parents may notice that their child’s anxiety increases—the closer they get, the less they want to actually go.

However, there are steps parents can take to help ease the transition into overnight camp for their kids. Many camps and camp counselors are used to working with parents and families during the weeks leading up to overnight camp. Reaching out to the camp and working with them ahead of time can help get all necessary details in place, and help ease some of your kids’ anxiety and stress.

 

Keep tabs on the anxiety.

It’s normal to feel some anxiety surrounding summer camp, whether day camp or overnight, as it involves meeting new people and going to new places. However, some kids will need more help with their anxiety than others.

ANXIETY WARNING SIGNS:

  • Difficulty separating from parents under typical circumstances
  • Clingy behaviors
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Somatic complaints (stomach aches, headaches),
  • Irritability
  • Statements refusing to attend the camp

 

Dr. Hollie Sobel provides individual, family, and group psychotherapy.  Dr. Sobel has specialization in using researched-based cognitive-behavioral techniques with children and adolescents to improve mood, decrease levels of anxiety, and enhance functioning across home, school and social settings. She includes children/adolescents and parents in the treatment planning process, as family involvement is often important in reaching treatment goals.

To read Dr. Sobel’s full bio or make an appoint, visit our webpage.

The Family Institute offers a wide variety of affordable counseling care that treats whole individuals and their loved ones throughout the Chicagoland area. Find out more at our website.

Ask A TFI Clinician: Vacationing as a Couple

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As we gear up for our vacations this summer, we’re looking at the different family and relationship issues that might come up.

Today’s expert tips, provided by Family Institute staff clinician Kathleen Gettelfinger,LMFT, focus on how couples can plan for and experience their vacations in the most positive ways.

 


 

New experiences can trigger old intensity.

Summer is a season during which couples may try to make time to travel together on a trip or a vacation. Whether this is in the form of a short weekend getaway or a longer international adventure, a vacation can be a great opportunity for couples to slow down, spend meaningful time together, and reconnect. Americans tend to live busy lives that are full of obligations related to work, taking care of the home, raising children, and other activities. Having time to rest and relax as well as reconnect with your partner is important in any relationship.

Additionally, research shows that for couples, sharing new experiences together stimulates the same part of the brain that was first triggered during the early stages of the relationship. Couples often look back fondly on those early months of falling in love and tend to share memories of intense passion and excitement. That intensity tends to naturally fade as a relationship matures, and ideally, love and commitment remain. However, novelty is the best opportunity to recreate those early feelings and emotions, and vacations include plenty of opportunities to share new and exciting experiences as a couple. Rekindling those early feelings can also help explain why couples tend to report having better and more frequent sex while on vacation.

Vacations aren’t immune to day to day conflicts.

Of course vacations are not immune to the day to day struggles couples face. For example, couples who tend to argue about money may be vulnerable to doing so both before the vacation and while away if they do not share expectations and an agreed upon travel budget.

Another potential area of conflict may involve a partner’s work priorities and willingness to unplug while away. If this commitment is not shared by both partners, one party may feel hurt or like less of a priority. Further, partners may also disagree about how time should be spent while vacationing and even how much planning should take place prior to the trip.

These potential disagreements can be alleviated by clear conversations regarding, among other topics, the cost of the vacation, the capacity to unplug, expectations for activities as well as how much time will be spent together versus apart, and how flexible the planning should be. Because vacations require an investment of both time and money, feeling disappointed by an experience or by your partner can feel especially disheartening while away.

Despite the potential pitfalls, the rewards of vacation far outweigh the risks. Setting aside time together as a couple is an important practice that can help benefit the relationship and make partners feel refreshed as both individuals and as a pair.

Tips for a successful vacation experience:

  1. Agree on a budget. Money issues are among the most common trigger points for couples. Prior to the trip, work together as a couple to determine an appropriate amount of money to spend saving room in the budget for unforeseen opportunities or costs that may come your way. Also consider paying for activities and accommodations in advance so as to alleviate some of the stress around continuous spending.
  2. Agree on a plan. Some people like to have every moment of their trip planned well in advance of the vacation. Some people like to arrive at their destination without a plan and would rather simply take the opportunities that come their way. If you happen to disagree with your partner on these strategies, try to meet in the middle by planning some activities but also allowing room for spontaneity.
  3. Unplug. One of the prime benefits of vacationing is having the opportunity to get away from work and other responsibilities. If this won’t be possible for you, let your partner know in advance so he or she knows what to expect and when you may not be available to him or her. Also consider disconnecting from your phone and social media in general. The only thing more irritating than being with someone who is constantly on his or her phone is being away on vacation with someone who is constantly on his or her phone.
  4. Just do it. Vacations can come in many shapes and sizes. If you can’t afford a week, try for a weekend. If even that seems like a stretch, plan a staycation with your partner. Set aside time to share new experiences in your city that you’ve never before had the opportunity to try. More important than the money spent is the quality of time spent together.

 


 

Kathleen Gettelfinger, LMFT, is a staff therapist at The Family Institute. Ms. Gettelfinger has a special interest in working with couples. As a former teaching assistant for Marriage 101, a Northwestern University course designed to help college students learn more about and prepare for the institution of marriage, she uses her teaching as well as clinical expertise to help young couples discern and make important lifecycle transitions, including engagement, pre-marital counseling, transition to marriage, and transition to parenthood.

To read Ms. Gettelfinger’s full bio, visit our website.

Learn more about The Family Institute on our website.

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