Preparing for Summer

Tips from Dr. Samantha Scott Ph.D.


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Well, the weather is sloooowly warming up and Summer is right around the corner. Do you have your summer plans worked out for your children? If not, here are a few quick tips to maximize your child’s summer experience while also maintaining some sort of balance and structure:

1.       Don’t feel the need to fill up every ounce of your child’s time!  They will be overstimulated and burnt out!  Instead, build in down time each day including time for your child to play or be alone. And… this doesn’t need to be alone time to play video games or be on electronics! This should be down time to read, make something, etc…

2.       In terms of electronics, there still needs to be limits on amount of time spent. And, it doesn’t necessarily need to be more time than your child is allotted during the school year. To avoid power struggles, set limits by filling your child’s day with alternative activities so there isn’t a whole lot of time for electronics. For example, time to play outside, family time, alone time/quiet time, crafts, chores (yes, chores) and even some schoolwork/educational activities. By the time your child has done all of these things, there shouldn’t be enough time left in the day to overindulge in electronics.

3.       Be sure to help your child stay connected with peers over the summer. Arrange play dates or encourage your teen to have friends over to hang out.

4.       Use a visual calendar so your child knows what to expect each day throughout the week. This is especially true if the schedules changes frequently and for kids who tend to be more anxiety prone. The calendar is also a nice way to give your child some control over her day. For example allowing her to pick and choose activities or at least the order of activities… “Hey tomorrow, we need to go to the grocery store, clean the play room and it will be nice outside. Would you prefer to go to the park and then get our chores done or get them done first so we have the rest of the day to play?”

5.       There are a ton of great camps in the area to match a wide range of ages and interests. Balance your kids down time with a week or two of something specialized outside of the house! If your child is older, encourage them to spend some time volunteering, interning or working!

6.       Sleep, sleep, sleep!  Just because your child doesn’t have to get up early for school, doesn’t mean they should stay up late at night!  Help your child keep a reasonable bed time and wake time; this will minimize anxiety, irritability and compliance during the day!

Last, but not least, use summer as a way to reconnect as a family. Eat dinner together, travel to some of the nearby hotspots like the beach, or take a rainy day off to watch movies and hang out together.

Mental Health Matters!

Did you know that May is Mental Health Awareness Month?


If you're tired of showers (and snow) and ready for flowers, prepare to be even more excited for the month of May when you hear about these upcoming events!

Our very own, Dr. Samantha Scott Ph.D., Chair of the Youth Development Advisory Committee (YDAC) and Lynn Sande, YDAC Member and Race Director discuss the importance of Mental Health Awareness Month and the activities that our community has put into place in support of the awareness and destigmatization of mental health. 

Interested in joining in on the fun? Sign up for the eRace the Stigma 5k here! For more information on how to join the 2018 Children's Mental Health Matters Campaign, click here!

Spring Forward: The Importance of Outside Activity

Dr. Samantha Scott Ph.D.


Spring is Here!!  Well, with the exception of the latest snow storm!  But, it should be right around the corner so there is no time like the present to discuss the importance of getting your kids (and teens) outside! So, why is being outside so important? Here are just a few basic reasons:

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Playing outside in nature reduces stress, improves overall physical health, and increases concentration and creativity. This can lead to enhanced cognitive skills and even better grades!!

We know our kids are going to be inside learning, on their IPads, Tablets and Computers. Adding outside play and exploration will only make your child more well-rounded and even put into context what they are learning about online and in the classroom.

Vitamin D!! Yes, sunshine has Vitamin D which improves mood and can decrease symptoms of depression. Smelling the spring air, watching birds, and relaxing on a park bench are great ways to get centered and lessen stress and anxiety.

Being outside also teaches our kids the importance of taking care of the environment.

Playing outside often calls for more people, social interaction and creativity helping your child build social skills, and imaginative play that is unscripted.

So, as the days lengthen and get warmer and warmer, encourage (or even require) your child to get outside. Go for a walk or bike ride. Walk around the zoo. Invite friends over to play basketball. Learn how to garden! The sky is the limit, and so are the benefits!

Just Relax!

Dr. Samantha Scott, Ph.D.


Just relax! Ever say this to your child or teen and get the blank stare or, worse, the eye-roll?  You think you are suggesting something nice and being supportive but your child says you just don’t get it! Well, it may be that your child actually doesn’t understand what you are asking him to do or how or how to do it. Our kids are SO busy! From school, to sports, to clubs, to social events to ….. social media, when is the last time you saw your child unplug and really unwind?  And, by the way, vegging out in front of video games or Netflix doesn’t count!  Does your child really know how to relax?! And, why is this important?

When I see children and teens in my office that are overwhelmed, stressed out, depressed, “lazy/unmotivated” this is a huge red flag that their body is shutting down. It’s exhausted and depleted all of its resources. What’s worse, is that most children not only struggle to generate ways to relax but they don’t understand the importance. They see taking a relaxation break as lazy or what I hear most frequently, “I don’t have time to take a break.” Parents, this is NOT OK! Children and teens who say this are running themselves ragged and are actually probably wasting way more time trying to push through their exhaustion rather than taking time for themselves which would eventually make them more efficient. 

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What can you do?  Help your child generate ideas of ways to relax. Put relaxing items in a box if you have to!  Engage in fun and relaxing activities with your child. Bake cookies, make a scrapbook, do a puzzle together!  And then encourage your child to do something relaxing every day!  We know they are busy but 10 minutes here or there is definitely do able! And, remind them that giving their brain a break for 10 minutes might actually make them get homework done faster!  But also remember, your child is watching you!  Be sure to model this behavior and when you do relaxing activities together, be sure to put your phone and technology away too!

Maintain Mental Health and Avoid the Flu and Other Illness

Abby Tingle M.S.


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       It is no secret that mental health influences how you feel, think and behave in daily life. But, did you know that mental health also affects your ability to cope with stress, overcome challenges and fight off illness? Mental and physical health are often regarded as separate entities, when in reality mental health can have a direct impact on physical health. With the abundance of the influenza virus within the United States, it is crucial that we make the connection between mental health and a weakened immune system. Poor mental health can affect the body’s ability to fight off infection and disease. When the body is exposed to an infection, such as influenza virus, the immune system fights back to control and eventually remove the virus from our bodies. However, mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression slow the response of the immune system making it more difficult to reject the infection. This makes the body more susceptible to becoming ill and can result in a longer period of infection... and no one wants that!

How can this be avoided? The answer is simple: practice self-care. Taking care of your mind should be a top priority when maintaining or improving overall health. Here are a few simple ways to do so:

·         Exercise regularly- time to dust off those running shoes. Exercise results in the release of chemicals in the brain that can ease depression and anxiety. Pick a program or form of exercise and stick to it!

·         Eat a healthy diet- put the fast food down! Foods loaded with processed and high-calorie ingredients have been linked with increased anxiety and depression. Avoid skipping meals, since this can lead to fatigue and a more vulnerable immune system.

·         Maintain a normal sleep schedule- easier said than done right? But, not getting enough sleep has been linked with depression, anxiety and stress. If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, check out these helpful tips on what to do when you can’t sleep.

·         Get support- phone a friend... or two! Mental health may be a difficult topic to discuss with others, but social interaction is a vital aspect to preventing a decline in mental health.

·         Seek professional care as soon as possible (yes we said as soon as possible, and we mean it!)- getting help earlier can prevent mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety, from developing.

Keep in mind, if you feel you are experiencing symptoms of any mental health condition, it is important to contact a medical professional to determine help that is right for you. At the Child & Family Center, we can help!

Risk Factors for School Shootings

Abigail Tingle M.S.


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On February 14, 2018, the Florida school shooting that resulted in the death 17 people marked the 12th school shooting to occur within the United States since the beginning of the year. This means that a school shooting has occurred within our country almost every two days… and we are only two months into the new year.

Mass shootings and violence within schools used to be a rare and shocking occurrence. Now it seems that these events are rampant within our country. As a result of the frequency of these tragic events, society risks becoming desensitized to disasters that don't affect them directly.  When there is less attention or concern for these devastating acts, their frequency increases.  It is crucial that we remain aware of the significance of these events and the impact that it has on our children, communities and our nation as a unit so that mass shootings can be prevented. 

When there is a shooting or violent event that takes place within a school, the motive of the attack is thoroughly analyzed from a mental health standpoint. Often, the individual who commits the crime is suffering from emotional distress because of personal life occurrences. People who turn violent are frequently victims of bullying, people who have not found a way to make the bullying stop, have hit a personal limit and are desperate to make it stop. They typically feel isolated and rejected by their peers and sometimes even their family.  Without a good support team, these individuals may become more isolated or withdrawn.  Less frequently, the shooter may be copying behavior they’ve seen, or heard about. These are only a few of the reasons why a person may become violent.  Some risk factors are known to increase the likelihood that a young person will become violent.

What are some risk factors?

  • History of violent victimization
  • History of early aggressive behavior
  • Involvement with drugs, alcohol or tobacco
  • Poor behavioral control
  • High emotional distress
  • History of emotional problems
  • Antisocial beliefs and attitudes
  • Exposure to violence and conflict in the family
  • Low parental involvement
  • Low emotional attachment to parents or caregivers
  • Association with delinquent peers
  • Social rejection by peers
  • Lack of involvement in conventional activities
  • Poor academic performance
  • Low commitment to school and school failure

It is imperative that we become aware of these risk factors and spread this knowledge to others so that unusual behaviors do not go unnoticed and indications of violence are more widely identified, reported and understood. See something, say something.  For more information, visit the CDC website below.

 https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/youthviolence/riskprotectivefactors.html#Risk%20Factors.

End Fear and Enter Empowerment. How to Respond when your Children ask Questions about School Shootings.

Abigail Tingle M.S.


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The beginning of the new year has marked 11 shootings in America. The most recent attack in a high school in Kentucky seems to have left our nation numb to gun violence and school shootings. In times of distress, parents and caregivers fall silent when asked questions by their children about the recent attacks. From a preventative standpoint, this is the worst thing to do. Unanswered questions leave your child guessing and wondering on the subject, resulting in fear and worry. While these occurrences are indeed frightening, we must teach our children to understand violence and the importance of awareness. Instead of instilling fear into the minds of our children, let us empower them by providing them with age-appropriate knowledge of these events. Do you want to be able to discuss these incidents with your children? Check out some of our helpful tips below.

·         Keep the story simple. The younger the child, the simpler the explanation of the event should be. Keep in mind what you want your child to take away from this conversation. A young child should be given as little detail as possible.

·         Be honest, but do not overshare. Be sure to truthfully answer the questions that your child asks you. The worst thing that can be done is to spread false information. However, remember not to provide too much detail if the child does not ask. Often, children want to know the synopsis of the event and the upsetting details are not beneficial whatsoever.

·         Be available for questions and conversation at all times. Explain the basics of these events, keeping in mind the age, maturity and temperament of your child. Understand that one conversation may not suffice, and it is likely that your child will return with more questions. Be available and open to this. Some children are more apt to handle intense information than others.

·         Ask them what they know, since they'll probably have gotten their information from friends, and you may have to correct facts.

·         Consider your own reactions. Your kids will look to the way you handle the news to determine their own approach. If you stay calm and rational, they will, too. Process your own emotional response and have your first reaction away from your child.

·         Focus on the positive. This may be difficult to find. Try and highlight the heroes of the story and stress their importance.

·         Take action. Depending on the issue and kids' ages, families can find ways to help those affected by recent events. (i.e. sending postcards or drawings to the victim’s families or community)

·         Most importantly, listen to what your child has to say. Create a safe and understanding environment where children can feel free to come to you if they have questions or concerns. This way you can be certain they are receiving factual and age appropriate information.

By increasing understanding of school violence and shootings, we look to diminish fear in our children. Providing factual, age-appropriate information about these events gives a sense of empowerment to your child. This way, they can go to school and feel that they have the power to spread information that will benefit their peers and diminish their fears as well. Simply answering questions and having a conversation about school shootings spreads awareness and instills strength and confidence in children. Strong and confident children are less likely to fall into the footsteps of those committing violent acts before them. For more information on how to discuss violent events with your children, visit  http://www.nbcnews.com/id/15109195/ns/health-childrens_health/t/how-talk-your-kids-about-shootings/#.WmoLmTdOnIU

Am I Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Something Else? Growing up LGBTQ+ in a Rural Community

It wasn't until my daughter Jessica wrote a blog about what it was like growing up on the Eastern Shore bisexual that I really understood the difficulties of being part of such a rural community and having to navigate sexuality. Beautifully written and inspiring it points out the complexities of finding self in a rural versus an urban area. This is worth reading as a parent of any LGBTQ+ youth.

--Alison Vooris, MA, Med

Birding and Mindfulness on The Eastern Shore

Alison Vooris, MA, MEd.


  Banding and Trapping Hawks for Education and Research.   Individual identification of birds makes possible studies of dispersal and migration, behavior and social structure, lifespan and survival rate, reproductive success and population growth.

Banding and Trapping Hawks for Education and Research.

Individual identification of birds makes possible studies of dispersal and migration, behavior and social structure, lifespan and survival rate, reproductive success and population growth.

For as long as I can remember, the outdoor environment, nature and the woods have been my sanctuary. A sanctuary of peace and belonging. When I step into the world of nature, it is like a plug is opened and out flows all the stress and anxiety that has accumulated in my body. It is in this place that I am filled with energy instead of being zapped of energy and it is in this place that I discovered the world of birding. The world of birds has opened my eyes to the fine details that surround all of us and I found that I began noticing and paying attention to sounds, colors, textures and sensations that I did not realize were there. All of this was happening as I looked for the smallest movement or quietest sound trying to locate a bird. Without realizing it I had found Mindfulness. I came to realize that the bird is my anchor and the woods for me is my sense of place and mindfulness. The anchor allows me to be present in the moment and empties my mind of all my worries and fears. It’s funny how it has taken so long to put a name to my practice, other than birding.

Birding could be your mindfulness practice too. Why don’t you give it a try? Take a walk in the woods. That could take all your worries away.

My Child Won’t Put Down the iPad! Screen Time: How Much is Too Much?

Adeline Tryon, PhD. and Shalena Heard, Ph.D.


Have you ever worried about the amount of time your child spends watching television and/or playing video games? Some experts and parents refer to these activities as “screen time” and have questioned the consequences of too much screen time for children and adolescents.  A concern shared by many parents is how watching television or playing video games for many hours may interfere with a child’s peer relationships and school progress.  A parent’s intuition is often right and a child’s ability to spend unusually long hours concentrating on a television screen is a valid concern.

Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician at the University of Washington School of Medicine who studies children and media says that the stimulation provided by video games is more about the pace of the game and how quickly the scenes change. Due to the way our brain works, children who excessively play video games become comfortable with the fast pace and extreme alertness they use to respond and win video games.   A potential long-term effect is that such children may find the real world less stimulating or less interesting, which may explain why some children who engage in long periods of screen time appear withdrawn and disconnected from others.

If your child shows other symptoms such as a short attention span, hyperactive behavior, impatience, disorganization, fidgeting, along with spending long periods of time watching television and/or playing video games you should consider having them evaluated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  A child’s brain seeks more rewards and stimulation when they have ADHD.  When a child is not taking medication to regulate their ADHD symptoms playing video games may serve as a form of self-medication, because it provides their brain with the stimulation it is seeking.

Despite potential fears about screen time interfering with your child’s academic progress Dr. Christopher Lucas, associate professor of child psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine, states that the concentration children use to watch television and play video games is actually different from the kind they need to engage in school and other life activities.  However, children who have less friends and engage in less social activities may use screen time to substitute actual peer relationships.

If the information provided here relates to challenges you are facing with your child, consider scheduling an appointment to discuss the ideas below:

  • Your child’s brain may seek more rewards and stimulation than usual and an ADHD evaluation may be helpful.
  • Your child may experience some difficulty making friends and screen time may be one way of coping.
  • Your child may find their school classes difficult and mastering video games makes them feel confident and capable.

To reduce or  limit your child’s screen time the following ideas are recommended:

  • Avoid placing screens in your child’s bedroom
  • Pay attention to the content of their video games, especially to violence
  • Set limits on screen time (For example, 30 minutes after homework)
  • Provide your child with fun alternatives to screen time (For example, family game night)

For the full article and more detailed information see: “Fixated by screens, but seemingly nothing else” by Perri Klass, M.D.