Making Friends: Helping Children Improve Peer Relationships

PlayDateTo some children, making friends comes very naturally. They seem to always be surrounded by others and interact very well. For other children, this can be more of a challenge. They’re not sure what to say or how to act or may be lacking self confidence. Friendships are an integral part of a well-balanced life and positive social interactions. Helping your child to develop these essential skills can have a long-lasting effect and benefit them throughout their lives.

  • Be a positive role model: Set a good example for your children by letting them see how you interact with others. Show support for friends and family, be compassionate, and work through challenges in a healthy way. Model appropriate behaviors for being a friend.
  • Help them to problem solve: It can be tempting to want to fix everything and protect your child from getting hurt, but this does not help them in the long run. Rather than solving problems for them, work together to come up with solutions. Discuss how to respond to challenging situations, appropriate responses, and different ways they can approach things. Encourage them to work things out but be ready to step in should things become more serious.
  • Plan play dates: Invite one or two children over to your home to play. This way your child can put in place some of the skills they have been working on in a safer, more comfortable environment. Find out who they like spending time with and activities they enjoy. Be there to support problem solving and provide small prompts to help them along if necessary.
  • Capitalize on teachable moments: Look for opportunities to discuss friendships through books, movies, television shows, or things you see in the community. This can be a great way to for kids to discuss their thoughts, feelings, and responses. Talk about what happened and different scenarios for dealing with the situation. Guide them in building social skills and understanding how to effectively interact with others and respond in various situations.
  • Teach about bullying: Educate your child on what it means to be a bully and to be bullied. Raising their awareness can help them to be more alert to these situations and tailor their own behavior so they are not bullying others. It can also help them to make friends by understanding how to be a better friend.
  • Seek counseling: If you fear that your child’s social skills are inhibiting their ability to make and keep friends, consider counseling. A counselor can work with your child to build these skills, use their strengths, and overcome weaknesses. They can offer additional support and strategies for social interactions and behavior. In addition, they can help to get to the root of problems that you may have been unaware of and provide solutions.

All parents want their children to thrive and be happy. With the right support and interventions, they can guide their child’s development and help them to flourish. If your child is struggling, the professionals at Safe Harbor Christian Counseling are here to help. Trained to meet the social, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs of children, counselors can work with your child on a wide range of issues to promote positive growth and wellbeing. Contact Safe Harbor Christian Counseling at 1-800-305-2089 to find out more about our counseling or set up an appointment.

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Regaining Strength Following Divorce

Marriage therapy. Couple with an advisor.Going through divorce is a painful and life-changing process. You are forced to cope with major changes and figure out how to begin again. Whether it was initiated by you, your spouse, or was a mutual decision, it can still be challenging to deal with. But divorce doesn’t have to keep you down; it can be an opportunity to rediscover yourself, your interests, and your goals. Healing takes time but learning how to be proactive in the process can help guide the way.

Allow yourself to grieve: You don’t have to always be the strong one. Divorce and loss hurt. Let yourself be sad, mad, frustrated, and a wide array of other feelings. This is normal. In order to move on, you must first deal with the present and acknowledge how you feel. But don’t let yourself get too caught up in feeling bad. Set a time frame and once that time is up, make a conscious effort to start moving on.

Lean on friends and family: There is nothing wrong with asking for help or seeking support. Talk through your feeling and frustrations. Turn to others who have gone through similar situations for insight into how they dealt with challenges and began rebuilding. Keeping everything bottled up and isolating yourself from others can increase risk of depression and make it more difficult to get back into the swing of daily life.

Do things that you enjoy: Make time to pick up old hobbies and interests. If you love painting but have been putting it off, break out your paints and express yourself. Join a fitness group or photography club, plant a garden, start running, or get lost in your favorite book. Boost your mood by focusing on things that make you happy and help you to stay involved. Try new things and set goals to stay motivated and give yourself a renewed sense of purpose and drive.

Focus on your wellbeing: You may not have much of an appetite or may want to sleep all the time, but try to get back into familiar routines. Make sure you are eating well-balanced meals, engaging in regular exercise, staying hydrated, and getting an adequate amount of sleep. Focusing on your basic needs can help your body to stay healthy, give you more energy, and support a more positive outlook.

Seek counseling: If sadness has continued to linger and your efforts to boost your mood and move on have had little effect, consider counseling. A counselor can help you to work through your feelings and the challenges that you face. They can offer strategies for moving on and regaining control of your life. It may be just what you need to get your life back on track and begin healing.

You don’t have to go through divorce alone. The team at Safe Harbor Christian Counseling is here to provide you with the support and guidance you need to deal with these changes in your life, cope with your emotions, and implement strategies for making the most of your future. If your divorce has left you feeling lost, contact Safe Harbor Christian Counseling at 1-800-305-2089 to schedule an appointment and learn more about our counseling services.

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Planning for the Future: How Premarital Counseling Can Strengthen Your Relationship

premarital_mainIt can take time to find that one person you want to spend the rest of your life with. The person who makes you want to be a better person, encourages you to follow your dreams, sticks with you through good and bad, and whom you want to create a future with. The decision to get married is a big step, though. You want to ensure that you are prepared for this commitment and all that it brings.

Premarital counseling can help you to do just that. There does not have to be something specifically wrong to seek counseling. It does not mean that your relationship is faltering, but rather a way to help prevent that. Being proactive can strengthen your bond with your partner and support a better marriage.

  • Work through potential problems before they erupt

A counselor can guide you through disagreements you may be having and common problems couples face. It gives you a chance to express your opinions and work through differences. There is room for compromise and adjustment so that you can ensure you are on the same page going forward. If you are experiencing small arguments, counseling can help you to resolve these situations before they turn into something more significant. Ignoring these issues can make things more challenging in the future.

  • Talk in a safe environment

It is different discussing opinions at home versus in a counselor’s office. A counselor’s office provides a more neutral territory and a non-biased opinion. You can feel safer opening up and being honest because the counselor is there to help you work through your feelings and differences. They can teach you strategies for more effective communication and problem solving. That way you can be more proactive about confronting issues in the future and working through them.

  • Learn more about the other person

You may think that you know everything about your soon-to-be spouse, but do you really? Have you addressed finances, children, spirituality, jealousy, or other tough issues? Premarital counseling can bring these issues to light and allow you to express your opinion on the matter and see what your partner thinks as well. Then together you can determine how you will move forward or adjust to your differences in opinion. The counselor may bring up topics you hadn’t considered before but that are important in a marriage.

Learn how to appreciate one another in new ways and create a stronger vision and path for your future together. Premarital counseling can be a great way to further support your decision to get married and grow closer to one another. You can feel more confident that you share the same views for your life together and that your differences will not stand in the way.

Before you say “I do,” consider premarital counseling through Safe Harbor Christian Counseling. We will work with you and your partner to overcome any challenges, express your opinions and beliefs, and create a more solid plan for your future together. Contact Safe Harbor Christian Counseling at 1-800-305-2089 or visit www.safeharbor1.com to schedule an appointment and learn how counseling can benefit all stages of your marriage and life.

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How to Relieve Test Anxiety and Support Children in Success

test-anxietyWith the school year well underway, students are beginning to take more exams on the material that they have learned. While it is normal to be slightly nervous or anxious before the test begins, many students quickly overcome this and proceed with the exam. However, for some students, the thought of a test brings on anxiety that can have physical and mental ramifications. It is not something that passes after a short time and can impact their performance.

What are the symptoms of test anxiety?

Your child may have a variety of different symptoms depending on the amount of stress or pressure that they feel. Physical symptoms may include headache, accelerated heartbeat, rapid breathing, nausea, diarrhea, sweating, clammy hands, or lightheadedness. The child may feel scared or helpless and may even trigger a panic attack if they are unable to calm themselves. They may feel as though their mind has gone blank and have trouble concentrating on test questions.

How you can help your child feel more confident

Oftentimes children are worried about getting a poor grade, not having studied enough, or not knowing the material. Parents can help to reduce this pressure by supporting children during test preparation and providing positive encouragement. It is not likely that a single test will make or break their entire grade. It is usually the culmination of multiple scores, so avoid putting excess pressure on them to perform well.

  • Help them study: When students know that a test is coming up, help them to review materials daily. Breaking it down into smaller chunks over several days can help them to more effectively learn the content. Ensure that they are doing their homework, projects, and assigned readings so they are caught up and practicing what they have learned. Help to quiz them on content and give extra attention to material they are unsure about.
  • Promote positive thinking: Remind your child that they have been studying daily and know the material. If they are concerned about failing, help to negate these thoughts by pointing out previously good grades on exams and projects. Encourage them to point out the positive things they have been doing to prepare.
  • Practice test-taking skills: Answering the easiest questions first, jotting down facts or figures in the margins or on scrap paper at the start of things they don’t want to forget, and crossing out wrong answers can help reduce anxiety. This allows them to spend more time focusing on questions that may be more difficult while boosting their confidence as they answer questions they immediately know. Eliminating wrong answers can help to narrow down choices and allow them to problem-solve more effectively to pick the correct one.
  • Teach calming techniques: Help your child to learn deep breathing exercises or meditation to relax. By calming their body and mind they can improve their focus and promote more positive thinking. This can help to reduce stress and alleviate anxiety symptoms. Make sure they get plenty of sleep and eat a nutritious breakfast the morning of the test so they are feeling at their best.

Consider counseling

If your child is struggling to overcome their anxiety, counseling can help them to learn more effective strategies and manage their thoughts. They can work to build their confidence and self-esteem when facing tests and other challenging situations. If ignored, test anxiety can negatively impact their school performance and overall wellbeing. Counseling can help them to better deal with negative thoughts, fears, and symptoms associated with test anxiety.

The professionals at Safe Harbor Christian Counseling are experienced in helping children to enhance their school performance and alleviate stress and anxiety. If you are concerned that your child is not performing as well as they could be, counseling can provide them with the support and guidance they need to excel. Contact Safe Harbor Christian Counseling at 1-800-305-2089 or visit www.safeharbor1.com to learn more about how we can help or to schedule an appointment.

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Understanding Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Working through Challenges

Oppositional_Defiant_Disorder-3-smallRaising children is a tough job. As a parent, you want to protect them while also ensuring that they learn the right lessons and have every opportunity to maximize their potential. This can be even more challenging if your child has physical or mental health issues. If your child has oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), it can be stressful and frustrating trying to connect with them and feel as though you are making a difference and doing the right thing. Educating yourself and engaging in counseling and other forms of support can help the entire family to cope and adjust.

What is Oppositional Defiant Disorder?

Children who have ODD often display negative behaviors and attitudes towards adults and authority figures in their lives. They try to be in control of situations and refuse to follow directions, defying authority. They frequently lose their temper and engage in arguments. Other signs include blaming others for mistakes, acting out of spite, and intentionally annoying or bothering others.

These behaviors and actions can add stress to family life. Parents may feel helpless in controlling their child’s behavior and preventing outbursts. Arguing can be exhausting, both physically and mentally. Sometimes the child’s outbursts can lead to physical destruction of property or abuse of others. While these situations are challenging and stressful, there are ways that parents can help to reduce acting out and respond more constructively.

Coping with Negative Behaviors

  • Remain calm. Although this is often easier said than done, try to resist responding to anger with anger, as this can escalate the situation. The child is looking to get a reaction and feeds off of this negative energy. Choose your battles and what issues are worth pressing. Take a step back and gather yourself before responding. Be firm and straightforward without yelling back or getting defensive.
  • Implement structure and routine. Having free time can seem like a good thing, but can actually lead to more trouble. Setting expectations, following a schedule, and structuring activities can help you to maintain control. It is important to have some flexibility, but to set boundaries and follow through with established consequences. Constantly giving in to the child’s demands makes them feel as though they have won. Being firm yet loving shows authority while helping them to make better decisions.
  • Problem solve together. One trigger is often that the child is confronted with a problem and is unsure how to resolve it. The problem may be that they don’t want to do their homework or eat dinner. Calmly discuss why it is an issue and how their defiant behavior will not solve it. Work with them on an alternative solution and be supportive. Help them learn ways to cope with challenges more effectively and praise them for making good choices. Positive reinforcement for doing things that are difficult or that they don’t want to do can ease power struggles.

Reach out for support

Counseling can be an effective way to support the entire family. It can help parents become more proactive and confident in dealing with children with ODD. For the child, it can help them to work through struggles and better manage their outbursts. Even siblings can benefit by being able to talk about how they are feeling and ways that they can cope with a sibling having ODD.

At Safe Harbor Christian Counseling, our trained staff can help you and your family to work through these challenges and create a more supportive, respectful, and loving environment. Visit www.safeharbor1.com or call 1-800-305-2089 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

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Back to School: Easing Transitions and Starting the Year off Right

Back-to-SchoolThe start of a new school year can be both exciting and scary for children. They get to see their friends, learn new material, create projects, and many other things. At the same time, they are in a new grade (and possibly a new school), the work may be getting harder, and they are unsure how it will compare to the previous year. They may feel nervous or anxious about these changes.

As a parent, you want your child to be successful and happy. There are several ways that you can support them in the new school year and help to get things started off on the right foot:

Listen to your children’s concerns. Engage in open dialogue about the upcoming year. What are they excited about? What are they nervous about? Take the time to listen and validate their concerns. Although it may not seem like a big deal to you as an adult, in their mind, it may be very important. Children have not yet had the same experiences as adults and do not deal with things in the same way. Provide reassurance and guidance in helping them to work through challenges. Be alert to changes in their behavior, mood, or school performance that may indicate something is troubling them.

Talk to teachers ahead of time. If you know that your child struggles in math or has a difficult time sitting still, talk to the teacher at the start of the year. Let them know your concerns and discuss ideas for helping your child to be more successful. By voicing your concerns, you also allow the teacher to be more assertive in paying attention to these areas and identifying problems early on. Develop ways that you can work together with the teacher to support your child and help them to have a more productive year.

Slowly shift back into the school routine. During the summer you may have let your children stay up later and sleep in longer. With the start of school, they will have to get used to getting up earlier and being ready for the day. Rather than suddenly changing their bedtime, slowly move it up by 15 to 20 minutes at a time. This will help them to readjust at a more natural rate and allow their body to ease into a new sleep routine. Create a plan for packing lunches, picking out clothing, and getting homework done.

Consider counseling. If your child has a lot of anxiety about going back to school, is having trouble adjusting to changes, or is exhibiting behavioral concerns, consider counseling or therapy. This can help your child to work through these challenges in a safe, supportive environment. They can develop more effective methods of dealing with their emotions and the situations they may encounter.

It is important to keep lines of communication open between not only you and your child, but also with their teachers and the school. Success is enhanced by everyone working together for a common purpose. You may notice behaviors at home that the teacher is not seeing in school or vice versa. Regular updates and discussions can help to address and resolve these issues before they become more serious.

If your child is having difficulties adjusting to school, Safe Harbor Christian Counseling can help. Our staff is trained in dealing with a wide variety of issues and helping children to feel more confident and self assured. By working through their problems, they can focus on making the most of the new school year. To learn more about our counseling services and how they can help your child in school and life, please call us today at 1-800-305-2089 or visit www.safeharbor1.com.

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Creating Stronger Bonds in Blended Families

BbunchBlendedFamilyBlended families have become commonplace in today’s society. Parents are merging families together to create new stepfamilies. While parents may be excited about this shift and creating a future together, it can be more difficult on children. They may not understand exactly what is occurring or be prepared to accept new siblings or a new parent into their life. It often involves many changes and adjustments, and this can seem overwhelming. However, there are numerous ways that parents can help to ease these transitions and build stronger bonds in their blended family.

Be patient. Trying to rush things can cause more stress and complications. Implementing many changes at once can result in confusion and resistance. Recognize that these things take time and everyone may not be the best of friends from the first day. Give it time as both children and parents adjust to their new surroundings and routines. Work through challenges together and be supportive of one another.

Get to know each other. Spend time together learning about each other and what everyone likes and dislikes. Find common bonds and interests to build upon. Plan time with each child to get to know them more personally and allow them to get to know you. Make sure that you and your spouse agree on basic parenting styles so that children know what to expect and what is expected. There may be struggles at first, but remember that everyone is learning to adapt and making compromises.

Make decisions together. Get everyone involved in making decisions, especially major ones. Let children help decide how their room will be decorated, or what to have for dinner. Start new traditions that are special to your blended family. Children can still keep traditions with their other parent, but they will also have new ones to look forward to. Discuss rules and expectations so that everyone is on the same page. Give children a chance to voice their opinion and make sure to validate their concerns.

Build a respectful environment. A key element in creating stronger blended families is establishing respect. As a step-parent, you are not necessarily taking the place of a biological parent. You are a new addition to the child’s life. Refrain from speaking negatively about other family members, especially parents. Treat each other with respect and politeness. Cultivate an environment where children feel comfortable opening up and expressing themselves. This can help to facilitate stronger relationships. Help them to adjust to their new role within the family.

Consider counseling. There are many changes that occur when blending two families together. To help everyone learn to appreciate and respect one another and develop realistic expectations, counseling can prove beneficial. A counselor is a neutral third party and can work with families to recognize and accept their differences. They can help with overcoming challenges, working through difficult situations, and establishing strategies to build relationships.

You can arrange for family counseling as well as couples or individual sessions. Some children may adjust more quickly than others, but counseling can help them to work through their feelings and cope with the changes occurring in their life. At Safe Harbor Christian Counseling, we work with individuals, couples, and families depending on their needs and situation. If you are struggling to find balance and build connections with your blended family, contact us today at 1-800-305-2089 or by visiting http://www.safeharbor1.com to find out more about how our experienced team of professionals can help.

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