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If you need more assistance: Contact your School Counselor
We encourage parents to please make an appointment, as the counselors may not always be able to accommodate unannounced visits.
NYC SCHOOLS ACCOUNT
We need your help. The NYC Schools Account (NYCSA) is our main form of communication with students and families. We send out important messages about the school and it's also where we post the report card grades. In this challenging time, it is absolutely necessary to keep an eye on your child's grades. Many students are struggling and need intervention, whether it's tutoring, counseling or something else. But if you don't know how they're doing, how can you help? If you need an access code or have any problems with this account, please contact your child's school counselor.
THE COUNSELORS' BLOG
Signs of Depression During the Pandemic
Kids who seem to be stuck in a negative mood may need help to bounce back
As the pandemic continues to limit our lives, one thing we need to be alert for is depression, in our children as well as ourselves.
Feeling down in this time of cancelled activities and social distancing is unavoidable, and most of us are struggling to stay positive. But depression is more than just feeling sad or having bad days. A child who seems to be stuck in a negative mood — feeling hopeless and not able to enjoy anything — may have depression and may need help to bounce back.
Depression is a disorder that most often begins in adolescence, but it can occur in children as young as preschool age. Kids who have a history of depression are particularly at risk during this stressful time, but upsetting events like the pandemic can also trigger depression in children who haven’t shown any signs of it previously.
Mark Reinecke, PhD, a clinical psychologist, outlines three steps parents should take to guard against depression.
Be aware of the signs of depression
Depression can be easy to miss, especially in teenagers, since adolescents are often moody. But with sadness and irritability widespread during this crisis, the signs can be even easier for family members to overlook. Likewise, kids and teens who are struggling may not recognize their own symptoms for what they are.
Symptoms of depression include:
- Unusual sadness or irritability, persisting even when circumstances change
- Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed
- Reduced feelings of anticipation
- Changes in weight
- Shifts in sleep patterns
- Harsh self-assessment (“I’m ugly. I’m no good. I’ll never make friends.”)
- Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness
- Thoughts of or attempts at suicide
If several of these symptoms are present for at least two weeks, they can suggest depression. “If you see them, take note,” advises Dr. Reinecke. “If they last, take action.”
With everyone struggling, it can be hard know how to tell the difference between a child who’s just feeling irritable or frustrated and a kid who’s slipping into depression. The watchwords, says Rachel Busman, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, are persistence and severity. “If it’s here today but they’re okay tomorrow, that to me is not a cause for concern,” she explains. “What’s more of a concern is when it persists. You want to be on the lookout for changes in sleep, mood, appetite, and general engagement.”
Help kids feel comfortable talking about feelings
The second thing parents can do, Dr. Reinecke advises, is foster a family environment in which children feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings.
Make time to sit down and explore how the kids are doing. They may need a little prompting. With so much going on in the world, older kids might worry that their feelings aren’t important, and younger kids might not have the words to explain what they’re feeling. Find a time, and if possible, a place where you aren’t likely to be interrupted. If you get in the habit of checking in with your children, and they know they’ll be listened to without judgment, they’re more likely to let you know what’s going on.
If a child is experiencing feelings of sadness or depression, take some time to talk about why. It’s easy for them to say “the virus,” and stop there. But encouraging your child to be specific can give both of you more insight into what’s happening, and how you can help. For example: Is your child struggling with boredom or from the loss of their regular activities? From disappointment over cancelled events? From feeling isolated from friends? From worries about the future, or fears that they or someone they love might get sick, or even die?
“Very often, depressed children and teens, like adults, have negative thoughts about themselves, their lives, their relationships and their future,” notes Dr. Reinecke. “They feel hopeless, helpless, and discouraged. Listen for these thoughts. Help them to clarify what’s on their mind and how they’re feeling.”
When kids do share, validate their feelings by listening to them without judgment, and without trying to “fix” them. Let them know that you hear them (without agreeing with what they’re saying) and you’re there for them. For example, “I hear that. That sounds really hard. I love you, and I’m sorry you’re feeling so sad.”
Take steps to engage your depressed child
If you’re worried your child is sliding into depression, don’t panic. There are things you can do to help. Encouraging them to make changes in how they’re thinking and how they manage their feelings can help head off serious depression before it gets worse. Start by helping your child:
- Stay active. Encourage kids to engage in activities that will give them a sense of accomplishment, pleasure, fun, or social connection every day. Doing something for others can lift spirits. Activity itself helps protect against (and sometimes treat) depression.
- Keep a sense of perspective. People experiencing depression often magnify problems or screen out positive events and experiences. Help your child avoid exaggerating or obsessing on how bad things are right now. As parents it helps if you model this for your children, by avoiding what clinicians call “catastrophizing” – obsessing over the worst possible outcomes.
- Tolerate uncertainty and ambiguity. These are uncertain times. There are no guarantees about when the pandemic will end, so we can only live with it. Mindfulness practices can help your child accept the uncertainty of the moment. You can help by expressing confidence that they can manage it.
- Challenge negative thoughts. Getting stuck in negative thinking patterns that are distorted or unrealistic can contribute to depression and make painful feelings seem overwhelming. For example, your child may be thinking this will go on forever and they’ll never see their friends again. Help them think through the facts: Realistically, this will not go on forever. So, what are some things they could do to feel more connected with friends in the meantime?
- Make plans. Work together to come up with a plans or activities that will help them feel more engaged. For example: If taking an online dance class would help them get some much-needed exercise, get started by looking up cool classes online and make a project of creating a practice space. Or if they just miss being social, encourage them to start a FaceTime book group, or make Zoom dates to watch a miniseries with friends. The act of making plans, completing fun tasks, and coming up with strategies, can make them feel less helpless and hopeless.
- Make new goals. When you’ve lost something valued in your life, as we all have lately, it helps to find something to replace it. Help your kids make new goals. If holiday trips aren’t looking realistic, what can they focus on for next summer? What new skill can they learn that will be beneficial when this situation is over? What can they do to benefit others?
- Focus on gratitude. Encourage kids to list and reflect each day on things they feel grateful for and individuals they owe thanks. How can they express that gratitude?
How to seek treatment
If your child continues to show symptoms of depression, it’s important to get professional help. Speak with your child’s pediatrician or primary care physician to get a referral for a mental health professional, or contact a mental health professional directly.
Getting teenagers into treatment for depression can take persistence, because they often feel hopeless, and they may have a hard time believing that they can get better. But treatment can really help. There are several different kinds of therapy and medication that have all been proven to be effective for children and adolescents. (Get more information about treatment for depression here.)
Many clinicians have begun seeing patients through telehealth — online or by text or phone — during the pandemic, and therapy through telehealth has been shown to be effective, too. (Get more information about telehealth here.)
And if you child is experiencing suicidal thoughts, it’s important to seek emergency care immediately. If you think your child or adolescent is suicidal, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or 911 if there is an emergency. Don’t hesitate—the risk of suicide in children and adolescents is all too real.
In this stressful time, monitoring your own mental well-being is as important as being alert to your children’s needs. With all the competing demands on your time, self-care can seem like a luxury, but it’s not. Your mood affects your whole family, so giving yourself the attention you need — and professional help if you need it, too — is critical to the resilience you need to get through this crisis.
When Kids Refuse to Go to School | School Refusal Behavior
The term “school refusal” used to be more or less synonymous with truancy, invoking a picture of kids hanging out on the street corner, or holed up in their bedrooms playing video games.
Everyone resists going to school once in a while, but school refusal behavior is an extreme pattern of avoiding school that causes real problems for a child. School refusal is distinguished from normal avoidance by a number of factors:
- How long a child has been avoiding school
- How much distress she associates with attending school
- How strongly she resists
- How much her resistance is interfering with her (and her family’s) life
Including all these aspects is important, because a child can still have school refusal even if she attends school most days. I’ve worked with kids who have missed only a day or two of school, but they’ve been tardy 30 times because their anxiety is so extreme it keeps them from getting to school on time. Kids with school refusal might also have a habit of leaving early, spending a lot of time visiting the nurse, or texting parents throughout the day.
Suspicious sick days
Often kids with school refusal will start reporting unexplained symptoms like headaches or stomachaches. Anxiety does manifest in physical ways, so their symptoms could be indicative of that. As a parent, the first thing you want to do in this situation is get your child checked out by a pediatrician; you don’t want to overlook a medical problem. But it may be that going to school is her problem.
Related: Anxiety in the Classroom
Sometimes resistance to attending school is just a little blip on the radar, and it can be easily remedied. Maybe your child had the flu and was out for a good amount of time, and now she is having a hard time making the transition back to school. Suddenly she’s getting clingy and anxious about all the homework she missed.
In this scenario, it is important not to prolong time at home. Instead, you want to have a conversation with the teacher and with your daughter. You want to be able to tell her, “We’ve talked to your teacher, and he knows you were sick. I know you’re worried, but he understands. It’s time to get back to school.” Then she returns to school and often things go relatively smoothly.
Similarly, some kids in school experience blips of anxiety after vacations. The key point is to get children back in school as soon as possible.
More serious concerns
When school refusal starts to become a bigger problem—it’s going on for numerous days, weeks or even months—you should reach out and ask for help. This includes kids who go to school but only attend partial days because they are spending a lot of time in the nurse’s office and getting sent home early from school.
Understanding the problem
For more serious cases of school refusal, the first step in treatment is getting a comprehensive diagnostic assessment. While school refusal is not a diagnosable disorder, it often accompanies disorders like separation anxiety or social anxiety. A complete assessment helps treatment professionals understand what is underlying school refusal, allowing them to tailor therapy to your child’s particular situation.
It’s also possible that something specific is happening at school, like bullying or a difficult class. This doesn’t mean you should immediately jump in and ask your child who doesn’t want to go to school, “Who’s bullying you?” But it is important to know what is going on in your child’s life. You should expect to hear what her teacher is like and how homework is going. You should also have a sense of the kids your child is hanging out with. These are all things that should come up in everyday conversation. And if your child mentions that something happened that day, perk your ears and put down whatever you were doing and listen in a nonjudgmental way, because it could be important.
Treatment providers working with kids who have school refusal will often use cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps kids learn to manage their anxious thoughts and face their fears. While kids who are anxious might disagree, the best way to get over anxiety is actually to get more comfortable with feeling anxious. Kids need the chance to see that they can attend school and their worst fears won’t happen. Exposure therapy, which reintroduces kids to the school environment gradually, is very effective at this. In the very beginning of treatment, this might mean driving by the school or walking through its empty halls on the weekend. From there kids can work up to attending one or two classes and then eventually attending a full day towards the end of treatment.
It’s best to be proactive and catch school refusal as soon as you can. Unfortunately, the longer a child misses school, the harder it is to get back in the routine, because being absent is very reinforcing. I have worked with families that describe getting ready for school like it’s a battle complete with huge tantrums. Sometimes the morning gets so challenging and exhausting that mom and dad just give up and say, “Fine, stay home; I’ll go pick up your homework.” It’s a very understandable situation, but again, letting it continue puts kids one day further from being back at school. It is important for parents to know that the sooner the child gets back to school the better, and reaching out for help is an important first step.
NEED TO KNOW: ANXIETY
Dear families and students,
Do you ever feel so worried and stressed it derails your whole day? Or avoid social situations for fear of being judged or embarrassed? Maybe you have recurring nightmares or flashbacks of something that happened in the past. All of these things are linked to what we call anxiety. Anxiety can get so bad it stops us right in our tracks and stops us from living a normal life.
Please visit the website below to read more about anxiety (disponible en espanol).
If you feel your child may be suffering from anxiety, please contact their counselor. Ms. Mualem runs an anxiety group for students every week and our Western Queens team can help by providing counseling to your child in or out of school. We are here to help!
-The QT Counselors
MEET OUR SCHOOL SOCIAL WORKER MS. AMBIA
Hello! My name is Katherine Ambia and I am the School Social Worker at Queens Technical High School. I am here to support students with their social and emotional well-being. I provide individual and group counseling and run the My Sister's Keeper program here at school. Stop by any time to make an appointment or to say hi!
MEET OUR SAPIS COUNSELOR MS. MIESES
THE FAMILY ASSESSMENT PROGRAM
Is your child skipping school? Refusing to listen and constantly shouting or running away? Experimenting with alcohol and drugs? Hanging out with the "wrong crowd?" The teen years can be rough for parents, but some teens have a rougher time than others. If you find that you're child is out of control or is in constant conflict with you and the family, you may be able to get help from the Family Assessment Program (FAP).
FAP provides support to families that are struggling with everyday challenges. FAP works to strengthen families, reduce conflict, and connect your family to many services that provide ongoing support in your community. It helps families handle concerns such as a child running away, skipping school, or disruptive behavior, without having to go to court.
FAP staff will introduce you to the program and explain how we can help. They will:
- Talk to your family to understand the circumstances which brought you to FAP
- Identify the most helpful and practical options for resolving your family’s concerns
- Introduce you to a range of services in or close to your home that are designed to help you
A social worker who specializes in family crisis resolution will interview you if you decide to participate.
The worker will ask questions about your family’s concerns, strengths, and circumstances which we will use to plan with you and refer your family to one or more supportive community programs.
FAP staff can refer your family to a wide range of therapeutic options such as:
- Crisis intervention
- Family counseling
- Substance abuse services
- Domestic violence programs
- Anger management programs
- Mental health services
Services vary in intensity and duration depending on FAP’s assessment of your family’s needs.
Contact us today for free help if your teen is in crisis. Email [email protected] or see phone numbers below.
- Bronx office: 718-664-1800
- Brooklyn office: 646-584-5178 / 347-907-0464 / 646-584-8935
- Manhattan office: 212-341-0012
- Staten Island office: 718-720-0418 / 646-276-4170
- Queens office: 646-599-3308 / 718-725-3244
The email box and phones are answered Monday through Friday 9-5, and all messages will be returned.
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