I am often asked by patients and friends about my favorite books about anxiety. Here are just a few - the ones I most often reach for during sessions with kids and families. If there are any books about anxiety that you have found particularly useful, let me know!
I am happy to offer a number of groups this Fall.
Back to School Jitters
August 17 @1-2
This one session group, mostly geared to kids starting middle school, will cover typical back to school concerns - getting lost, figuring out lockers, and who to eat lunch with! Kids are also welcome who have been out of school due to COVID or who are starting at a new school this Fall.
Teen OCD Group
8 Sessions, Date & Time to be decided (beginning Sept 2021)
This group, geared to 9-12th graders diagnosed with OCD, will begin with two sessions of psychoeducation. We will learn what maintains OCD over time and what we need to do to change it. Each participant will then be coached to build a hierarchy that will guide their treatment. Subsequent sessions will involve exposure to feared situations, strategies for reducing compulsions, and discussions of how to live a meaningful life without OCD.
Teen Anxiety Group
8 Sessions, Date & Time to be decided (beginning Sept 2021)
This group is geared to 9-12th graders diagnosed with anxiety disorders besides OCD. This includes generalized anxiety (excessive worry), social anxiety, specific phobias, illness anxiety, and panic disorder. The group is not suitable for kids whose main difficulty is trauma. The group will begin with two sessions of psychoeducation. We will learn what maintains anxiety over time and what we need to do to change it. Each participant will then be coached to build a hierarchy that will guide their treatment. Subsequent sessions will involve exposure to feared situations, strategies for reducing safety behaviors, and discussions of how to live a meaningful life without anxiety.
*** For kids whose main difficulty is excessive perfectionism, Dr. Ledley will suggest joining either the teen OCD group or the teen anxiety group, depending on clinical presentation.
Middle School Social Anxiety Group
8 Sessions, Date & Time to be decided (beginning Sept 2021)
This group is geared to 6-8th graders diagnosed with social anxiety. We will learn what maintains anxiety over time and what we need to do to change it. Each participant will be coached to build a hierarchy that will guide their treatment. Subsequent sessions will involve exposure to feared situations, strategies for reducing safety behaviors, and discussions of how to live a meaningful life without anxiety. We will have many important discussions about topics like where to find friends and what makes a good friend and how to initiate and maintain conversations,
Parent Anxiety Group: Education and Support (PAGES GROUP)
Runs on a rolling basis, next session to start on Sept 15th @ 10am
This four-week group, held on Zoom, offers parents the opportunity to learn about why anxiety is maintained over time and what they can do at home to start to change it. Weeks One and Two were primarily "education" with tons of learning packed into two hours! Weeks Three and Four were tailored to "support" group members' unique needs. You ask, I answer! Topics covered in prior groups have included anger/difficult temperament; social anxiety; perfectionism; raising independent, resilient kids; and sleep challenges.
We are just finishing up our first four week Parent Anxiety Group: Education and Support (PAGES group). It's been a great success! This four-week group, held on Zoom, offered parents the opportunity to learn about why anxiety is maintained over time and what they can do at home to start to change it. Weeks One and Two were primarily "education" with tons of learning packed into two hours! Weeks Three and Four were tailored to support the group members' unique needs. This group included parents of kids from first to tenth grade. Although this felt slightly daunting at the get-go, we immediately observed many commonalities and I was able to tailor the lessons to the groups' needs with tips specific to both younger kids and teens. During Week Three, we focused on anxiety and sleep, as well as anxiety and anger/bad behavior. During Week Four, we will be focusing on perfectionism. Parents have had ample opportunity to ask questions and receive helpful tips from me.
The next session of the PAGES group will begin on May 3, for four Mondays @10 am. You can read more details in the flyer below. If you would like to join, please email me ASAP at email@example.com. I'd love to have you!
The past year has been unprecedented (I know, I know…that word!), as has our teens’ screen time. For interest’s sake, I just pulled up my calendar from this week, 2020. There is barely an empty hour between competition jazz band commitments, religious school, music and sports lessons, high school extra-curriculars, and get-togethers with friends. I see virtually no blank space on our family calendar – and my kids have never been as “programmed” as their peers! With so little free time (once you add in schoolwork, which both my kids take seriously), screen time was not a huge issue in our house. The kids texted with friends, followed some Instagram accounts, and my son played an hour of video games per day on weekends only.
Fast forward to COVID times. How many times have YOU said to your kids – “Get off your screens” or “Can’t you find anything else to do that does not involve in a screen?” It sure feels like a problem – so I turned to my screens and asked fellow parents of teens whether they are struggling with screens in their homes too. I also asked what their teens are keeping busy with that does not involve an electronic device. Here are some take-aways:
-We are all in this together – “All screens. All the time,” “Screens, all the time,” “Definitely a lot of screen time.” Basically, every parent who I heard from admitted to way too much screen time in their homes.
-Sports have been helpful – in some areas, organized sports have continued throughout COVID. Parents remarked that team sports and individual lessons in sports like tennis have been a godsend for their kids. Although we have been extremely cautious throughout the pandemic, we did allow our son to play Little League baseball this summer and it truly was a blessing. He got to be with other boys, got a lot of fresh air and exercise, and felt some of the team spirit he usually experiences at his beloved overnight camp. Parents also wrote about how their kids have embraced the family exercise equipment. My daughter has been joining me for Peloton yoga classes and we are loving the together time and the laughs when we can’t quite master the poses!
-Weather is a factor – Parents remarked that their kids were much better at getting outside for exercise and socially distant visits with friends when the weather was warmer and there was no snow or ice on the ground. So many friends invested in firepits and heaters before the winter – but when it is 10 degrees outside, no teenager is going to sit in the backyard! Bad weather = more screen time. For all of us.
-Kids have adjusted to doing all sorts of things online – in my house, we do online trumpet lessons, clarinet lessons, and piano lessons. I have learned to knit online with my best friend in Canada. Of course, many, many kids are doing therapy online (I’ve never been busier). Things that seemed impossible before COVID seem pretty normal now. Yes, I recognize that these online activities technically involve a screen, but if it means kids are learning and growing, we will have to accept it for now.
-Crafts can be cool – one mom wrote that she is taking 2-3 trips to craft stores per month. Many parents wrote about their kids drawing, painting, knitting, crocheting, baking and cooking. I do have to say these interests seemed to trend slightly to the tween/early teen age group as opposed to high school kids. One of my college age students knits and crochets the COOLEST clothes and bags – I feel like if my daughter and her friends could see her stuff, they would all want to pick up knitting. But if I suggest it – no way.
-Pets – many people have acquired pandemic puppies and these too have been very helpful for kids. They get kids outside and exercising and are of course good for mental health and for learning responsibility. Don’t have your own pet? Maybe your child can help out walking a neighbor’s dog!
-Reading – some parents wrote that they have kids who are naturally avid readers and these kids have loved the gift of reading time that COVID has afforded.
To summarize – the good news is that our kids have kept up with old hobbies and interests and have developed some new ones despite COVID. The bad news – there is an awful lot of aimless screen time, and a lot of the activities described above actually still involve screens.
SO, SHOULD WE BE WORRIED?
As a psychologist, I encourage you to ask yourselves this –
What is the function of the screen time?
Some positive functions –
-Social time – if your kid is on Facetime with friends, playing video games with other kids, or watching silly videos with a friend, remind yourself – this is all they’ve got right now. Particularly in the winter, it is really hard to get together in any meaningful way. For kids who are in school, social time is very limited. Generally, kids cannot choose who to eat lunch with and during lunch cannot even face a peer and talk while they eat. Kids are telling me that school leaves them feeling really empty. They need to fill their tank somehow.
-Learning – Obviously, our kids are going to be on screens for school and for completing schoolwork. During these odd times, we also have to accept that they will be on screens to take their music and dance lessons, do some of their sports coaching, watch videos about crafts and baking, and so on. At these times where kids are having so few shared experiences, it is also important for kids to have things to connect about – and this might be the latest sports scores or the newest Netflix series. For kids who are watching a lot of sports or shows/movies, suggest they get on Facetime and watch with a friend or watch a really interesting series and virtually meet to discuss each episode with friends (like a book club – but for TV!)
-A healthy escape – This year has been a nightmare between COVID, political and social unrest, and for many kids, losing loved ones, economic security, etc. Think about what YOU do at the end of a hard day. Most people turn on the TV and zone out. Let your kids do that too. Not for hours, but do remember that they need a brain break too.
And the not so positive –
-Escape from aversive feelings – If your child is spending hours on screens, to the exclusion of COVID-safe social time, other hobbies, spending time with family, etc., it is worth asking if they are using screens to escape from aversive feelings of anxiety and sadness. Screen time would likely not be the only sign of a problem. Has your child’s eating or sleep habits changed? Do they seem particularly critical of themselves or more worried than usual? Have they lost interest in things they used to like and that they still could do during COVID? If you are seeing some of these changes with increased screen time, check in with your child. If you are concerned about their mental health, speak to your pediatrician or school counselor.
Happy New Year! Here’s hoping that 2021 brings many positive changes to our world after an incredibly difficult 2020. With New Year’s here, many people will be tempted to get “out with the old” and establish new, healthier habits.
HERE ARE SOME TIPS FOR CREATING AND STICKING TO YOUR RESOLUTIONS THIS YEAR:
Originally published on https://lifespeak.com/blog/
Back in March, when we came home from school and work for two weeks, who could have imagined that we would now be into our seventh month of living our lives on screens?? As we gear up for a Fall of telehealth sessions, I would like to share some tips to make our sessions run as smoothly as possible!
Do a Good Deed
Reading and Writing
Lunch and Learn!
In the evenings…
Online Camps and Classes
I would love to hear about what you are doing to keep busy this summer. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas and I will update this list!
I am a silver lining sort of person. There is no doubt that a global pandemic is really, really awful. We have now been home for ten weeks. We have missed celebrating meaningful events and holidays with family and friends; we've worried about our front-line workers and elderly relatives; we've mourned the loss of teams and music groups and volunteer groups; and of course, we've endured the challenges of working and learning from home.
But, what about all that kids are learning during this time? Without the sun-up to sun-down rushing that typically guides our lives, how have our kids filled this time? To me, the silver lining is that many kids are filling their time with acquiring and building life skills! This is so great!
-A few of my patients have learned to ride two-wheelers, probably a few years after they should have! And, older patients who had felt very anxious about learning to drive have embraced this life skill on our quieter streets.
-So many kids are cooking, baking, and gardening. These are skills they will use forever.
-One friend posted on Facebook that her kids built a bike course, a tree swing, and the frame to a car (like one you can drive!). How cool is that?
-There is no doubt that the current generation of parents is more overprotective than our parents were of us (check out http://www.freerangekids.com). This unique time is allowing kids to set off on their own for adventures in their neighborhoods. Yesterday, my kids biked into our little town on their own and navigated buying an ice cream while following all the new COVID rules to keep them and people around them safe. They were so proud of themselves when they got home!
-How about CLEANING? Without a regular cleaning person, many families are scrubbing toilets and changing beds and doing lots of laundry and dishes! Okay, full disclosure - getting the kids involved in this one hasn't been easy in my house (the groaning tends to take longer than the doing). However, the pay-off is huge. Between ages 17 and 30, I did all of my own cleaning. How great that our kids are building the confidence now so that when they head out into the world, they will know how to keep their environments clean and pleasant.
-A major life skill is learning how to BE comfortable with oneself. It is so important to discover how to structure an empty day so that at the end of it, you feel like it was a day worth living. Without their over-structured days, kids are really having the opportunity to learn this skill. Kids are waking up each morning and depending on their age, they need to set their schedule for the day. By this point in quarantine, many kids have realized that endless video games does not feel good at the end of the day. So what does? Kids are learning what gives them a sense of accomplishment, what makes them feel happy, what makes them feel calm and relaxed. To me, this might be the most important life skill of all.
What life skills have your kids learned during quarantine? I'd love to hear!
Have you been battling getting your kids (or yourself?!) off screens since the COVID quarantine began? Take a look at these 25 Things to Do When You Are Bored (without a screen). Thanks so much to my amazing 14-year old daughter for her charming illustrations :) Do you have ideas for 25 MORE Things To Do When You Are Bored? Let us know!
I am a licensed psychologist working with kids, teens, and adults with anxiety disorders.