Think “Dear Abby” for a new generation. Each newsletter I will select one or more questions to answer. So if you have a parenting or mental wellness question, please send it my way. I’m sure others have the same question and could benefit. email@example.com
What are some approaches to improving bed time routines for my kids? They are 9, 12, and 13.
-I Need a Break, Kalamazoo, MI
Dear I Need a Break,
First start with their ages and how much time they need to sleep. Depending on their wake-up and bus times most 9 year old should be in bed between 8:00-9:00, however, since you have two old kids you may want to have the 9-year-old have and 8:30, 12-year-old 8:45, and 13-year-old 9:00. Until high school, most kids should go to bed prior to 9:30. Once you determine the times that you want, stick to them. Start the bed time routine at least 15 minutes before, that means no TV for the 15-30 minutes before bed.
One technique that seems to work well is the have weekend bedtimes based on weeknight compliance. For example, “If you go to bed at 8:30 during the week for 3 nights, your weekend bedtime is 8:45, 4 nights 9:00, all 5 nights 9:30.” This provides a clear positive consequence for the desired behavior. Some families create charts to keep track. Also, tying their behavior to the social skill of “building trust” can help. For example, “Thanks for being in bed on time. By doing that, you are showing me that I can trust you to do what you need to do.” Then, when they ask if they can do something, you can say, “You know, you have done a great job building trust at bedtime, sure you can go to the store with your friend.”
Give those strategies a whirl and let me know how it goes.
I hope that helps.
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Blah in Our Brains
By Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC
I hate the time change. I don’t understand why during the darkest part of the year, we make it darker. I would much rather have it stay dark until 10:00 am and have light in the evening. But maybe that’s just me. This time of year triggers in people a sense of fatigue, sadness, depression, and feelings of blah. Whether you deal with clinical depression, seasonal affective disorder, or feelings of blah, there are several things you can do that will help you feel better.
Get More Light
Even when it is light outside, it seems to still be cloudy in Northern Michigan. A window usually is not enough. Regular lights do not capture the full light spectrum. They usually only have the blues and violets. Getting outside and sitting by a window will help, but changing some of your bulbs in your office or home to full-spectrum light bulbs can really help. A number of studies have shown that full-spectrum light can help with depression, sadness, and the feelings of blah (blah is not a clinical term used in research studies). Bulbs usually run $14-$24 dollars, a lot cheaper than therapy.
Get More Exercise
Exercise releases natural endorphins in your body. I was at the University of Michigan Depression Conference last year and one speaker was discussing how some studies are showing that exercise paired with counseling can be more effective than psychiatric medication. Even a short walk or taking the stairs can be helpful.
Get More Veggies
Fruits and vegetables can help with replenishing the body’s nutrients. Loads of colors in your diet are helpful. A diet of reduced processed foods helps to make the brain more receptive to light and exercise during the winter months. WedMD has a number of helpful nutrition suggestions,http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/diet-recovery
Get More Socialization
When I work with clients dealing with depression they often get into a cycle of alone time. They don’t feel like going out or doing anything which makes them feel like they don’t want to go out and do anything. During winter months we often feel like we want to hunker down and stay home. Socialization and new activities help us free up the blah in our brain.
Once you try these tips, you will hopefully see changes. With that said, you also need to know when to talk with your health care provider about pursuing additional options.
As with any change, it is better to start small and make little changes that you can do. Maybe for you a step would be to change a light bulb, go for a daily walk, eat broccoli again, or plan a potluck with friends or family. The hardest part is taking a step in the right direction, after that you will pick up momentum and have a blah-free winter.
University of Michigan has a great set of resources called The Depression Tool Kit. There are videos, worksheets, and tons of resources. Check it out, it will help you and/or the people you work with! http://www.depressiontoolkit.org/
That’s it for now. Do good to others and keep in touch!
Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor, therapist, psychologist, and overall helper of people in Traverse City, MI. He has professional experience working with Community Mental Health, residential facilities, foster care, and private practice. As well, he is the author of the book “Practice of the Practice: Basics for Launching Your Private Practice” due to be released in June 2012. He is a frequent speaker and writer locally in Traverse City, Michigan, and nationally.