“Mom, I Don’t Want to Go…” - Five Ways to Help Kids with Back-to-School Transitions

“Mom, I Don’t Want to Go…” – Five Ways to Help Kids with Back-to-School Transitions

Austin child & adolescent therapists offer tips for parents getting kids back into the swing of school.

AUSTIN – Tens of thousands of students will head to class in the Austin area on August 22nd, many to new schools. Back-to-school stress is one of the leading causes of mental health problems in kids and teens. According to federal statistics, 20% of adolescents have a diagnosable mental health disorder, 20% to 30% of adolescents have one major depressive episode before they reach adulthood, and 50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14. Back-to-school stress is a leading cause of depressive episodes and other mental health issues in kids.

“Most parents are also stressed by new school schedules, and don’t have as much bandwidth for noticing the signs of anxiety or depression in their kids. But there are quick and easy tools parents can use to cut down on back-to-school stress,” said Teri Schroeder, a licensed therapist who specializes in work with kids and teens. “But it takes more creativity than saying, ‘it’s going to be ok’; that kind of reassurance tends to backfire.”

Backed by evidence-based practice, here are five techniques parents can use to help kids and teens adjust:

  • Avoid Giving Reassurance – This is counter-intuitive, but kids often feel distant from parents who use variations of “it will be ok”. Instead, let them know their worries or difficulties are normal; tell them stories of tough transitions you’ve had.  
  • Create Space to Reflect on Transition Times – No matter how worried they are about going back, you can draw on successes they’ve had with managing other transitions. For younger kids, invite them to draw or make pretend sculptures with you about other transitions they’ve had to a school, camp or team, and help them reflect on what helped them get through it.
  • Start the New Routine Early – Most families wait until the first day of school to start the new routine. Instead, start at least a week early with the new evening and morning routines, and a daily “dry run” to school; this will give them less to adjust to, so they can focus on absorbing new information in class and relationships with peers.
  • Create Excuses to Socialize – For kids and teens of any age, social pressures can be a significant source of anxiety and stress. Although this isn’t what every child will need, sometimes offering to opportunities for socializing can be helpful, like offering to drive your child and their friends somewhere they want to go, or organizing a back to school cookout they can invite friends to.
  • Create a Time for Unstructured Play or Attention – New school schedules are often overwhelming for kids, even in elementary school, as they are very different from less structured summer routines. To help them cope with the transition, set aside at least half an hour each day for unstructured play with younger kids; they’ll feel reassured by the extra attention and non-teacher-like quality of your presence. For older kids, try introducing a “daily check-in” of some kind, where you can tell each other about your days without distractions from others in the house – it can even be good to hang a “do not disturb” sign on a door or wall.
Child counseling, play therapy, child therapy

Stop Back-to-School Stress Before it Starts with 4 Simple Tips

AUSTIN – 84,591 students at 129 AISD campuses, and thousands of others at private schools, recently headed back to school. Many are facing the stress of transition, as they graduate to middle or high schools, or transfer into a new district entirely.
And with a graduation rate of 87%, many Austin high school students go on to college; applying carries its own stress, as the pool of applicants has grown dramatically. According to the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, the number of undergraduate students increased by 37% between 2000 and 2010, to 17.5 million, and is expected to grow to 19.6 million by 2024, all with the same number of undergraduate colleges. Many elite universities now reject up to 95% of applicants. 
The good news: there are four simple practices families can do together to strengthen kids‘ inner resilience. 
William & Teri Schroeder, licensed therapists and founders of Just Mind in northwest Austin, have counseled parents and teens alike on managing transitions and coping with stress. They’ve coached parents on recognizing the signs: “Stress and anxiety in younger kids often shows up as somatic symptoms, like unexplained stomachaches, while for older teens it can look like withdrawing,” said William. 
1. Create Rituals for Sending Your Kids Off, & For Welcoming Them Home  

Teri explains, “Creating a ritual like a verbal exchange, such as taking time to tell your child something different you appreciate about them each morning, or leaving them affirming notes in their lunchboxes, can give them a boost of confidence to ward off social anxiety. Being able to receive them with focus and no distractions for around half an hour after they get home, to hear about their day and anything they may have come up for them, also gives them an emotional ‘safety valve’.” 

2. Let Them Schedule Things to Look Forward To 

“Between assignment deadlines and social pressures, kids can feel boxed-in,” William said. “Holding a family meeting to invite some brainstorming about a few fun things to do together as a family during the school year — something as simple as creating elaborate, themed Halloween costumes together — gives them something to look forward to in the months ahead, separate from the stress of school.”  

3. Use Sleep Interventions 

The National Sleep Foundation recommends kids age 5-12 get 9-11 hours of sleep, and says teenagers need 8-10 hours per night. As Teri explained, “It’s important to setup kidsfor success, which can include keeping a timer to track how long your kids sleep, cutting off “screen time” 2 hours before bed, and creating fun before-bed activities.”

4. Talk to Older Kids About Your Expectations — And Theirs 

Teenagers are used to being reminded of what’s expected of them. But they rarely get the chance to set their own expectations for themselves. Having a meeting at the beginning of the school year to discuss their hopes for themselves, as well as their apprehensions, reminds them that their 

About Just Mind
Just Mind is a boutique counseling center in Austin Texas that aims to remove the stigma from therapy through the environment we create and the unique attitudes of the associates who work with us. We were founded in 2007 and are proudly counseling Austin, TX & surrounding communities: Westlake, Lake Travis, Leander, Cedar Park, Round Rock, Pflugerville, Georgetown, and Travis County, Texas. To make an appointment, call 512-843-7665 x2 or request a counseling appointment online.
Is Addiction a Choice? Not really

Is Addiction a Choice? Not really

By Daniel Hochman, MD

As a psychiatrist in the addiction field, I enjoy the endless thought-provoking discussions that come up both professionally and socially. People just can’t wrap their minds around human behavior – especially when it doesn’t seem to make sense. How much more confusing can it get, then, to wonder: Is addiction a choice? This question is not just an academic exercise. If you think about it, how one falls in their beliefs about it is what drives how we judge, punish, treat, help, and respond to anyone with an addiction. Let us look briefly at each layer necessary to begin to answer this question.


I will first say that I have yet to meet someone with a genuine addiction that enjoys the entire process. In recreational use, the person does enjoy the high. We can all enjoy the rush from everything addictive like sex, a win at poker, or cookies. But never does someone who is in the trappings of a true addiction enjoy their choice. They absolutely hate it. Please don’t get confused: they absolutely love the high, but they absolutely hate the fact they do that. They are highly self-critical, hopeless, and completely ashamed of their actions. So please dispel the idea that anyone truly chooses a life of addiction. At the very least, we are questioning whether one chooses the highs because nobody chooses to suffer despair and hopelessness. Even masochistic individuals might choose pain or unnecessary drama, but they do not choose dread.


It wouldn’t be fair to say that the question of whether addiction is a choice or not is simply a matter of semantics, or else we would be dodging important psychological questions. First, I would ask that we agree that in the end, we could all technically be held accountable for our actions and choices. Even if unknowingly or forced, it could be fair to say that anything we do is our own choice from an observational or superficial standpoint. If a prisoner of war is forced to walk somewhere, he may not seem to have a choice. But technically he still does maintain the choice of whether to be further beaten or oblige.


Here is where it gets a bit tricky. At this point I hear people say: “Exactly! We’re all responsible for our own decisions in the end…how can this not be the addict’s choice?!” Enter the concept of consciousness. Consciousness as we will discuss it is the mental state of being truly aware of one’s own internal state in relation to events going on around. We all actually “choose” to do things hundreds of times a day without being conscious of our choices. This is exactly what any marketing effort preys on through subliminal advertising (testing of different backgrounds, fonts, colors, voices – anything that can influence our behavior). We can easily have the illusion of choice. It might sound something like: “I chose to workout today instead of getting high. I made that choice because I thought about what would be best for me and I want to get fit and healthy.” But no. We could easily ask why that day and not the other days. That person also certainly already knew a workout is healthier than a hit. There are always more reasons we do what we do that are beyond our consciousness. You might think you relapsed because you made a bad choice, but how are you going to know what may have triggered that? Maybe you passed a billboard earlier that day that reminded you of an ex that cheated on you (that you never even visually registered). One can simply never fully know what is behind any choice. And that leads to the idea of a degree of consciousness.


So if we can never be expected to fully know our decisions, what’s the difference between someone who is innocent, and someone who knows better? The answer lies in the degree, or amount of consciousness around what our choices are. The thumbs up gesture in the US means “up yours” in other places like Australia and much of the Middle-East. If you were traveling there and had no awareness of that, would you really say that person made a bad choice? If, on the other hand (pardon the pun), you did that with full awareness of the cultural meaning, you certainly made a much worse choice. Similarly, if you know that going to see a certain friend is going to trigger you to get high, that is clearly a conscious choice than being surprised by your craving and urge after you’re there. Anything we choose is always on this spectrum of choice at all times.


So how then can someone make such a bad choice if they clearly know better? This is where most people get tripped up. You can ask someone with daily heroin use what they know about the harms – and maybe even their triggers – and they will quickly respond with great awareness. Their awareness might even be greater than their doctor’s or therapist’s. But it is not simply a matter of fuller consciousness. Explaining the harms of addiction is nearly useless, and that is exactly what studies show. They must be given the chance to grow capacity. That means things like: learn distress tolerance and distraction techniques, practice grounding meditation, understand how to create relational boundaries, be appropriately assertive, find reward in kindness and gratitude, learn your sources of inspiration, etc. Addiction is not an intellectual choice, but a choice that feels like necessity. As my patients call it, the “fuck it” moment. They know full well what they’re getting into, and they do it anyway. We cannot expect anyone to act on their awareness without fostering the capacity to do so.


So you can hopefully see that there is much more complexity to the question of whether addiction is a choice. Our thoughts and actions are only superficially our choices. But there is a spectrum of choice based on how conscious we are of ourselves, and we can only be expected to act on that consciousness based on the opportunities we have to grow capacity around that. This is the process of change, and should be the foundation for any addiction work: learn how the mind and human behavior works, grow consciousness of one’s self through deep reflection, and then set that person up to practice building capacity in a progressive fashion. That’s why in the addiction program I designed, people finally turn their lives around after years of rehabs and therapy…. because every single lesson and exercise is part of a methodical process to grow consciousness around important themes, and build the capacity to tolerate the difficulties of change. All treatments should involve this process, but the fact is most treatments are based on the false concept that the therapist’s advice will lead to better choices. Two things anyone can do on their own are:

  • Learn just one more thing about yourself than you know right now.
  • Find one skill or technique that can help you tolerate distress (or practice a skill you already have even more).

That is a process I can guarantee will create more free choices for you, but not fully free 😉


Dr. Daniel Hochman is a psychiatrist and creator of SelfRecovery.org, an online addiction program that takes people on a deep and systematic journey to understand themselves so fully that they can transform from the inside out. He developed this after working and consulting for several addiction facilities where he recognized the limitations in our current system. He serves as President of Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility and has a private practice in Austin, Texas with a focus on therapy and holistic care.

Website: https://www.selfrecovery.org/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/danielhochmanmd/

FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/SelfRecovery.org/


How Yoga Reduces Stress

How Yoga Reduces Stress

When it comes to anxiety and stress, yoga really can be magical. I have personally experienced radical changes in my life from practicing yoga daily. Anxiety can last for just a few moments when you experience a high level of stress, or it can be chronic and constant in your life. However, your anxiety manifests, it feels awful. You lose your focus and in this day and age, it is so easy to feel anxious and stressed out. So shouldn’t there also be an easy way to combat it? Well, that’s where the magic of yoga comes in.

Yoga comes with many powerful tools because the discipline focuses on three aspects of you; the mind, body, and soul. So regardless of what anxiety is for you, whether a temporary thing or a constant feeling, yoga can help you manage it. Stress is something that we experience naturally. It is attached to your fight or flight system. Adrenaline pours into the body when you stress about the smallest of things. This causes you to potentially make huge decisions based on a fleeting thought that invoked your stress sensors. Knowing how to calm down the nervous system quickly is essential in living a life where you get the most out of it.

Here’s how yoga reduces stress and manages these issues effectively.

Yoga and Meditation to Prevent Anxiety

If you begin your day feeling relaxed, it’s harder for life’s unforeseen events to stress you out. Do a session of yoga, followed by a brief meditation in the morning. Yoga will help you prepare for meditation and stretch out the kinks from your sleep. Slow poses that allow you to deeply stretch out the hips help ease any stress that has stuck around from the previous days. Anxiety likes to sit within your hip crease, so when you stretch them out, you release that unwanted stress.

The meditation is important because you learn to hone “mindfulness.” Yogic breathing throughout meditation will help you focus. Mindfulness is about being in the moment and thinking of nothing else. When you can master this sitting in peace, you can incorporate it into your day. Practice as often as you can throughout the day.

It’s challenging to find clarity and peace in crazy moments that you’re conditioned to stress over. When you can master mindfulness, you won’t need to worry about becoming anxious under unexpected challenges. When you stay calm, you are more capable of fixing the problem. It all starts with the yoga poses that promote the peace within.

Instant Yoga During Times of Stress

If you do get stressed, you can quickly do some breathing that will reduce stress in the nervous system. Studies have shown that yoga and its self-soothing techniques can prevent the onset of anxiety. It also reduces anxiety immediately, modulating the stress response system. When you feel anxious, your breath becomes shallow. It’s because your system is preparing to use all of its power to either fight or run away.

Any yoga pose will aid your breathing which will instantly relax you. Even if you just put both of your arms up over your head and do a side bend. Breath in as you look up, hold your breath in as you bend your arms to the right, slowly breath out as you come back to center. Do this on the other side. It will make you feel better immediately. It is believed that yoga, in general, helps the heart rate which also helps your body respond to stress more efficiently.

Yogic Breathing Eases Stress in the Body

When you feel extreme pressure, it may pass, but it will often usually manifest in the body. Doing yogic breathing will help release the stress from your shoulders, back, and neck. You should try to remember to breathe deeply throughout your day. As small stresses can build up, you can get rid of it little by little through the act of breathing. There are probably times you’ve noticed yourself sighing close to the end of your work day. This is your body doing some involuntary de-stressing.

Breathing in deeply will give you more oxygen to your heart, lungs, and brain. This activates the body’s relaxation response which will reduce any anxiety or stress you’re experiencing. When you are diligent enough about a breathing session at your desk, you decrease cortisol in your body. This is the natural chemical that causes stress in the body.

Stress and anxiety can prevent you from doing things you want to do. They get in the way of your ultimate success and meeting goals that matter to you. It takes more effort to continue allowing these feelings to control your life than it does to get on the mat and release the pressure. The great thing is, you don’t even have to get on your yoga mat. You can do yogic breathing exercises in an elevator or on public transit. You can do simple poses at your desk. The magic to dissipate negative stress immediately is yours.

Want to spend 30 days and get on track with free yoga? Here are two programs you might like:

Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur, and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, Yoganonymous, OMtimes, and others. She’s also the founder and owner of Siddhi Yoga International, a yoga teacher training school based in Singapore. Siddhi Yoga runs intensive, residential training in India (Rishikesh, Goa, and Dharamshala), Indonesia (Bali)

Website:  https://www.siddhiyoga.com/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/siddhiyogaacademy

Instagram: https://instagram.com/siddhiyogainternational

Pinterest: https://pinterest.com/siddhiyogainter

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LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/meerawatts

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