Tag Archive for children

5 Simple Tips for a Successful School Year

The beginning of the year is filled with excitement and the expectation that things will “be different” from the last. New notebooks, teachers, and schedules make the beginning of the year seem like a bright beginning, and it can be.  However, without reinforcement of new behaviors, schedules, and some simple suggestions, the backslide to old and often ineffective tendencies may creep up.  Help your kiddo keep his or her school goals a reality with these tips and resources for a successful school year.

1. Make Downtime a Priority

After a full day of school, kids’ brains need a break. They are overstimulated, constantly “on” and frequently distracted. Jumping into homework or a stimulating activity conditions their brain to stay wired. We need to build in time to help them transition and settle down. Many families use the time before bed to chill out, but often this can backfire.  If we leave too many emotions and feelings to the end of the day, it can be too much for many kids to handle, leading to worries and anxious thoughts.

Downtime implemented throughout the day can help increase communication and awareness of feelings. Asking questions as soon as they step off the bus or open the door often leads to frustration and aggression, children feel pressured and pretty frazzled. A rule of thumb is to let them have a snack, chill out and wait 20-30 minutes.

This is “re-set time” and can include:
• Drawing or art
• Reading a book of their choice
• Imaginary play
• Shower or bath
• A TV show or game that is not stimulating (avoid fast screen cuts or violence, consider something that is interactive)
• Create a calming caddy or tool kit for distress tolerance

2. Communicate Goals & Reinforce Positive Behaviors

Successful School Year: Behavior Sticker Chart

The way you talk about academic success and school year goals is more important than you think. Validation and child-friendly language can increase effectiveness and confidence in your student. Refer to this post to learn how to talk so that they will listen and participate in the conversation. Reinforce positive behaviors and focus on your child’s intention instead of the outcome.  If your kiddo tried clean up their room and got part of it completed, give them credit, and ask how you can help them problem solve to finish up. “What can I help you with?” instead of “You still have so much to do.”


3. Organize Effectively

Help your child prepare for tomorrow today, not tonight. Before dinner or between homework and hitting the sheets, go over their upcoming and weekly assignments, activities, and events. Having a visual cue for younger and older kids, such as a calender on the wall will help them to gain confidence on what is to come, as well as help to create organizational skills for life. Dr. Lynne Kenney, The Family Coach and one of our favorite parenting experts, has created  clear and creative free downloads to help you and your children with organization.

4. Snack Smart

Snacks can help to save your kids mood and attention span during the long days back in school. Having healthy snacks available is imperative for managing mood and improving focus. Include a protein, carbohydrate, and healthy fat into each bite. It’s much easier than the drive-through, and healthier too. Click here to read more about snacks that boost brain power.

5. Sleep Tight

For a seamless transition back to school students of all ages need a consistent sleep schedule (adults do too). Studies show that back to school success correlates with a proper sleep cycle. Enough sleep means higher test scores, better behavior and more focus. How do you get your little learner back to bright and early mornings? This Back-to-Bedtime Post has you covered.

We wish all of you the best back-to-school year yet!  Please share your tips and suggestions below.


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Emily Roberts MA, LPC is the clinical therapist for the Neurogistics Children’s Program. She has worked with Neurogistics for over a decade. Emily is also an award-winning author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Becoming Who You Are, Psychotherapist, TV & Media Contributor, educational speaker and parenting consultant.  Express Yourself is available at bookstores nationwide and on Amazon. To learn more about Emily click here.




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Back to Bedtime: Tips for Adjusting Your Childs Sleep Cycle for Back to School

back to school sleepy boyBy Emily Roberts MA, LPC

We know summertime schedules make it hard to adjust to back to school demands. The leisurely schedule and later evenings mean more of a push back from kiddos when classes resume. As much as your child may fight or fuss about pillow-time, it is a tool for academic and behavioral success. Kids who don’t get enough sleep, regularly, have been shown to have lower testing scores, more behavioral outburst, and more ADHD-like behaviors. Snoozing on the weekends and struggling to get enough sleep during the week is a typical cycle for some, but can be damaging to long term health. Children and adults need a bedtime routine, and consistent hours for their brain to recharge and rest. This cannot be done two nights a week, we need to help them adjust to do this most days.

Start Now

Even if your child has started school or is doing so in the next week or so, start with a plan of action that you can implement as early as this evening. Changing their entire routine all at once can be too much for some kids to handle, so adding in each piece over the course of a week may help.Experts estimate that preschoolers (3 to 5 years-old) need 11-13 hours of sleep, while school-aged children up to age 12 need approximately 10-11 hours of sleep. Teens need at least 9 hours. back to school kids sleep

Dr. Juan Martinez MD, director of Pediatric Sleep lab at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital suggests:

• The best strategy is to allow the later bedtime initially, but enforce the gradually earlier morning arousal time to a goal of the normal awakening time for school. The late bedtime will eventually adjust to a normal bedtime. All parents and caregivers must be on board and consistent.— We love this, as our bodies will naturally respond to this adjustment after a few days. Starting to enforce an earlier bedtime after a week or so, and rewarding them for getting ready on-time will help.

• Absolutely avoid any caffeinated products after dinner. That includes coffee, cola drinks and chocolate.— We would even go further to say after lunch, as caffeine can stay in kids systems for hours. Sugar before bed can also heighten arousal, so that ice cream after dinner may need to be a mid afternoon treat.

• Have children turn off all electronics, including phones, computers, video games and television early in the night. Have them instead read, listen to soothing music or do other quiet activities.— We agree, and studies have shown that up to two hours before bed our brain’s will be effected by screen time. If your child “needs” their Kindle or begs for their iPhone, come up with rules for the family. It may be painful at first to convince your tween to turn in their phone, but if their goals are to make good grades and get the privilege of having a phone, then they needs to follow the rules. Many kids I work with sleep with their phones and are woken up throughout the night to friends’ texts or to search the web. DON’T ALLOW THIS.

• Have children take a warm bath an hour or two before bedtime to help their body temperature naturally cool down before sleep.— We would also add in doing mindfulness or self-soothing activities. Coloring, journaling, “light” reading (avoid scary or suspenseful literature), back rubs, ect.

• At bedtime there should be no background noises, television or music.— We have some kids who are able to relax by listening to classical music, guided meditations, or sound machines, as it distracts from their anxious thoughts. Try to find something that reduces stimulation.

More tips:

When talking to kids about this adjustment make sure not to say “because I said so” or “that’s our rule.” Rather, explain to them that sleep is important if they want to feel good and focused. Sleep is like food, we need it or our bodies can’t function.back to school sleep tight

Supplements. Make sure your child is taking their supplements as prescribed or suggested. Particular vitamins and minerals can be stimulating. Making sure that they are taking their recommended doses at the right time is imperative.

Make bedtime cozy. When we look at our beds we want to feel comfortable and look forward to shutting our eyes. Kids are the same. Make sure that they help you pick out textures of linens that they like, this is not your bed, it’s theirs. Give them lots of pillows or blankets if they like, as many kids (and adults) feel calmer and safer with soft textures surrounding them. For little ones, have them pick out a stuffed animal or blanket that “lives in the bed.” So they will have something to look forward to when bedtime comes.

Also, this is a great time to ask them about their goals for the school year, what do you want to accomplish or improve on this year? Let them tell you (it can be hard to keep your thoughts to yourself but try) what they want to achieve. “More goals in soccer” or “get an A in Algebra. Then ask them what they need to do to get there. Break down the goals with them and add in steps including healthy living (sleep, diet, supplements, ect).

What if they resist? As a parent you are in charge, and your children will thank you in the long run. Expect a few days or even weeks of push back, maybe even tears, but stay consistent and strong. Validate that sometimes it stinks to head to bed this early, and we all are trying our best to be healthy.

Even if they aren’t tired, which is a common complaint, get them in their rooms, and make their room a bedtime zone. If there is a tv, a computer, bright lights or warm temperatures, fix these things soon. Make the bedroom for sleeping and relaxing not stressful activities. The more we praise them getting into their rooms and in bed the more likely we will help condition their brains to “like”, at least a little bit, the idea of heading to bed. Giving in to later bedtimes may be a “reward” but try rewarding with activities that they would want to do during the day. Sleep is sleep, just like breakfast is a meal. You wouldn’t let them go to school hungry, so why would you let them go with a foggy brain?


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Emily Roberts MA, LPC is the clinical therapist for the Neurogistics Children’s Program. She has worked with Neurogistics for over a decade. Emily is also an award-winning author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Becoming Who You Are, Psychotherapist, TV & Media Contributor, educational speaker and parenting consultant.  Express Yourself is available at bookstores nationwide and on Amazon. To learn more about Emily click here.




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In the News: Older Adults are Adopting

Wednesday’s New York Times Article Filling Up an Empty Nest examines the more children who are being adopted by older parents, many of whom have had children before or are retired.

According to the article, “The need for competent adoptive parents is great. In 2011, a little more than 50,000 children in the United States were adopted with the involvement of child-welfare public agencies, with around 104,000 waiting to be adopted, according to federal data. More than half of those waiting were over the age of 6.” This is only in the US. Some recent statistics say that in just 2011  there was approximately 9-10 thousand internationally adoptions into the US, and not any conclusive numbers on how many children are waiting.

The Most Adoptions (by country) in 2011

  1. China
  2. Ethiopia
  3. Russia
  4. South Korea
  5. Ukraine

What are your thoughts?  Where have you adopted from or thought of adopting from?  Give us your thoughts below.


Take Good Care.


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Emily Roberts MA, LPC is the clinical therapist for the Neurogistics Children’s Program. She has worked with Neurogistics for over a decade. Emily is also an award-winning author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Becoming Who You Are, Psychotherapist, TV & Media Contributor, educational speaker and parenting consultant.  Express Yourself is available at bookstores nationwide and on Amazon. To learn more about Emily click here.




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From My Bookshelf

Sometimes we all need a little refresher when it comes to parenting.  It can be exhausting and exciting, but overall we forget much of the knowledge we have sought out, paid for, and educated ourselves on overtime.  Even after years of education, I still have to look back at old notes or books to recall some theories or techniques.  I wanted to share some of favorite parenting books, that never get old (in my point of view), and are always helpful to my clients.  Feel free to share your favorites too!

Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, by John Gottman, Ph.D.  Gottman relates to parents, divulging some of his own mistakes and challenges.  This book is a guide to teach parents how to raise emotionally intelligent children, with a simple five step process.  It is a easy read, that provides strategies and techniques rather than explaining issues in-depth.  Good for parents with kids of any age.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & How to Listen so Kids Will Talk, by Adele Farber adn Elaine Mazlish.  Classic book on communicating with kids, it gives practical strategies and tips.  Their book for Teens is great as well.  I often go back and read chapters to remind myself (as a therapist) what NOT to say to kids, what gets them to close up, and what phrases work well to get them to open up.

Parenting from the Inside Out, by Daniel J Siegel, M.D., and Mary Hartzell, M. Ed.  The authors examine how our own childhoods shape the way that we parent, and how we can draw on this awareness to become better parents ourselves.  Attachment research and neurobiology are discussed along with strategies to become the parent you really want to be.

These are just a few of my go-to favorites on my bookshelf, I have more specific book recommendations based on symptoms and diagnosis, however there are TOO many for this post.  Please add your favorites and ones that you have found helpful to your family.


Emily Roberts, MA., LPC

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