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Screen Time: How much is OK?

Most parents are familiar with the struggle of setting limits on the amount of screen time their children have each day.  With so many gadgets – computers, TVs, smart phones, tablets, video game systems – children have a cornucopia of devices to choose from.  Technology does have its merits and benefits.  Smartboards are in many classrooms and a large amount of homework requires the use of a computer. 

Although unlimited screen time may keep your children quiet, too much screen time is not good for kids.  Several research studies have shown that too much screen time can have a detrimental effect on a child’s health – both mental and physical.  Too much screen time can make it difficult for children to fall asleep at night.  An overabundance of screen time can increase a child’s risk of attention problems, anxiety, and depression.  Time spent on a screen is time not spent being active, raising a child’s risk of gaining too much weight.  TV commercials and other screen ads can lead to unhealthy food choices.  Food ads that are aimed at kids are often high in sugar, salt, or fats.  Additionally, children tend to eat more when they are watching TV.

Making The Most Out of Your Family Vacation

If the idea of a family vacation evokes mental images of a frazzled Clark Griswold, you’re not alone. Our daily routines feel safe and predictable and it’s not always easy to step away, especially when kids are involved. Nevertheless, these adventures provide valuable opportunities for families to practice compromise, adaptation, problem-solving, frustration tolerance, and of course, communication. What’s more, the benefits often outlast the actual experience. A successful family vacation has the potential to enrich a family’s identity and provide “happiness anchors” – a set of soothing memories to mentally recall when we are stressed or anxious. Keep in mind, a “successful” family vacation is not guaranteed and like most adventures, a little planning goes a long way. What follows are helpful tips to make the most of your time away:


Holiday times remind us of special significance and meaning. Thanksgiving is an American tradition. It’s about being thankful for all that we have. Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, and holidays at this time of year also have special meanings. Of course New Year’s is a celebration of the ending of the year, with all the excitement about ushering in a New Year and making resolutions.

For both the holidays and the New Year, we often set up expectations that are well-intentioned, but not realistic. Our goals may be too high, too general, or too long-term. We may be unable to maintain the commitment required, resulting in feelings of failure and low self-esteem. So, expectations need to be realistic, and a specific plan needs to be developed with short-term goals to maintain motivation. Meaningful rewards will reinforce our behavior, increasing the likelihood of its recurrence.

Holidays also tend to remind us of the past, including good and bad memories. Sibling rivalry issues may resurface at this time. Old family conflicts may also be replayed, resulting in hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and ultimate disappointment as we attempt to achieve approval from the ones we love.

Sad feelings may also be generated around holiday time, as we are reminded of those people who are no longer with us. This natural marker of time, which is often one of reflection, reminds us of the deaths, divorces, and changes which have occurred. The holidays may not be the way they used to be.

Overindulging ourselves and our children are sometimes subtle ways of compensating for these difficult feelings. Excessive gifts, drinking and eating are sometimes ways in which we attempt to “Take care of ourselves.” The ensuing result may feel overwhelming and out-of-control, however. Keep things in perspective. Find balance in life. Expression of our spirituality, paying attention to our needs, exercise, and sharing feelings with trusted people are good ways to begin.

Happy Holidays!

Summer Mental Health Tips for Children

It’s summer and…I’M BORED!!!

This is an all too familiar complaint for many parents.  Summer is supposed to be laid-back, less stressful, and full of positive feelings, right?  However, the transition from a structured schedule to the unstructured days of summer often can be challenging.  This is especially true for children with anxiety, ADHD and autism spectrum disorders.  Summer also tends to have a focus on being more social and this can lead to feelings of isolation for some children who struggle with depression or social challenges.

Here are some tips to be mindful of during the summer months:

Parenting on Purpose: Discipline

DISCLAIMER: This blog is not written by a psychologist with superpowers who has never become frustrated at her children. This blog is written by a real mom who recently caught herself yelling “Stop yelling at your sister!” …and the irony had her thinking, “Hmm. I could blog about that.”

When responding to our children’s negative behaviors, from minor infractions to blatant disobedience, it’s best to leave emotion out of it. If we get too frustrated by our children’s behavior or feel personally offended by it, our response is often more emotional than logical. A bit of mindfulness (being in the present moment without thinking about the past or future) can be useful here. When your child throws a tantrum, the focus should be on this one tantrum, not that it is his fifth tantrum over the past 2 weeks or that you have to get dinner ready in 30 minutes. Responding to the moment without the emotional baggage of what has happened or what needs to happen can free up our resources and allow us to approach the situation—and our children—more rationally.