Author Archive

Q & A with Sex Therapist Mel Sutton, LPC

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018

The following is an interview between Brittany Senseman, LPC-S, and Melanie Sutton, LPC. Melanie is a trained sex therapist with a Christian world view. In this interview, Mel answers some basic questions regarding the purpose and process of sex therapy.

Melanie Sutton, LPC

Brittany: What exactly is sex therapy?
Mel: Sex therapy can take a lot of different forms. Typically a couple will come in when they’re experiencing some type of sexual dysfunction, and we will work together to come up with some solutions for whatever dysfunctions they’re experiencing. If it’s a married couple, we’ll do some marriage work, relationship work, and make sure they’re communicating well and handling conflict well. So it might look like your typically counseling session. But then we weave in exercises that they take home and do together to overcome whatever hurdle they’re facing.

Brittany: It sounds like it is a lot more about the relationship part, and then the physically intimacy piece of it gets added on. Is that accurate?
Mel: Yes! Sometimes we’ll have a couple that comes in that has a really solid relationship, and with those couples we can jump right in to the sex homework. There’s a protocol for each different issue that comes up, sexually speaking. It depends on what they come in with.

Brittany: I have to assume when people come in, they’ve got to be embarrassed and uncomfortable. How do you get them comfortable?
Mel: You know, I get it because whenever I started out on this I was uncomfortable as well. I had to get myself really used to using sexual language and talking about body parts and talking about things that happen during intimacy. So, I think part of it is how we approach anything that makes us anxious. I think some of it is just exposure.

I think the first benefit of coming in and talking about things that make you feel embarrassed is that it will push them out of their comfort zone a little bit. But by the end of the first session, they realize, “We survived that, and it wasn’t so bad; and maybe we can do that again.” I think that exposure and talking about it can really help decrease that anxiety and help overcome the awkwardness of talking about your sex life.

Brittany: So it’s almost just like talking about it is the therapy.
Mel: Yes, sometimes it’s like that for couples. Especially if the couple isn’t talking about sex in the first place, just showing them and modeling for them that it’s something they can talk about it … sometimes that’s all they really need and then they can work on things on their own.

Brittany: How can a couple know when it’s time to come in for sex therapy?
Mel: It’s totally subjective. But there are a few issues I want to point out that would be important to specially to see a sex therapist. Any sexual dysfunction: female vaginal pain disorders… when they’re experiencing a tremendous amount of pain during sex, or if it’s really raw or stinging. Male erectile dysfunction or ejaculatory disorders. Those are things to work on in therapy.
Something that I see really often is decreased arousal or decreased desire. Or a discrepancy in desire or arousal. Like if one partner says “I want to have sex five times a week” and their spouse says, “I would be OK with having sex just once every other week.” Then we can sit down and work through some of that as well.

If there has been sexual trauma or abuse, then that’s something that will come up in intimacy later on down the road, and that’s another specific issue that I would highly recommend someone coming in for. Any compulsive sexual behavior… pornography or anything looking outside of the relationship for sexual satisfaction.
A couple may have several different issues, but if they find themselves fighting about sex more often than the other issues, then that’s typically going to be a couple where sex therapy would be beneficial because in their minds sex has become a centerpiece of the problem in the relationship. Sometimes that can be the first domino that we knock down as a way of creating change for them.

Brittany: I do couples counseling, and sex has to be a part of that conversation – and like you say, a lot of times, sex becomes the identified problem. I see a lot of the discrepancy issue where one person has a higher desire than the other and that tends to be what everyone is fighting about. When, like you say, there’s almost always some other underlying issue that’s creating the barrier; but it’s just easier to talk about sex and get mad about it.
Mel: Right, exactly! Sometimes it’s just easier to point back to sex than it is to uncover some of the other parts of the relationship that they may feel uncomfortable with or vulnerable about. I think sex is one of those areas that’s easy to just point the finger, and a lot of times it can give the couple some ammo whenever they’re coming into session.

Brittany: What are common myths you’ve had to debunk as a sex therapist? It seems like people have the impression that they’re going to be prescribed some odd, kinky, uncomfortable kinds of things to do which makes them really reticent to go.
Mel: One of the funniest things I’ve heard is people worrying they’re going to have to do something sexual in the office – that I’m going to grade them, or watch their technique! There’s no removal of clothing in the office! I don’t show techniques or anything like that. There may be a time when we do an exercise, but it wouldn’t be anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable doing in front of a large group of people. We definitely keep it very safe.

Now, I will say that there are many “flavors” of sex therapy out there. My training as a Christian sex therapist definitely approaches this process through the lense of how we can have this intimacy within the bonds of a covenant relationship and honoring the sexual ethic formed by biblical beliefs. That creates for couples more of a sense of safety because they know I’m not going to send them to go watch pornography or read racy novels or do anything that would be outside the boundaries they’ve become comfortable with.

Brittany: Is that a main distinguishing feature between what your services and typical sex therapy?
Mel: Yes. In your typical office, if someone comes in and let’s say a woman has been breastfeeding and her hormones are out of whack and her sex drive is almost zero, which is very normal for a new mom. What a typical sex therapist might prescribe is anything to increase sexual stimuli and definitely pornography would be a tool and reading racy novels and things like that.
The neat thing about what I get to do is think outside the box and tap into “holy imagination” and allowing our brains that God has given us to be a playground for our intimacy and creating new ways of finding that sense of excitement with your spouse and not having to look outside the marriage for that.

Brittany: What is a typical amount of time a person or couple might expect to be in therapy?
Mel: Typically expect six months to a year. We start out seeing each other frequently and once we put homework exercises in place, we see each other less frequently to give the couple time to do those exercises.

It’s all about what effort you put into the process outside the counseling office. We can talk about it all year long, but are they actually doing the homework exercises and changing their behaviors? I’m not a behavioral therapist, but some of the protocols are so behaviorally oriented that it requires a lot of follow through. So, I would say it takes a motivated couple for the therapy to work.

Brittany: This is great information! Thank you for your time!
Mel: Thanks for having me!

Beauty in the Eye of This Beholder

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

by BRITTANY SENSEMAN, LPC-S

Recently I visited “The Glamour and Romance of Oscar de la Renta” exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. I should start by saying that I have no fashion education, and I am quite certain this limits my ability to truly appreciate the art I witnessed. So, I ask those well versed in the world of fashion to please forgive my potentially amateur observations. Now that I’ve made my disclaimer, here goes!

First: Wow. I’m in awe of the beauty of those garments. The intricate details of each piece were fairly mind-blowing – type of silhouette, variety of influences, fabric, thread, applique, beading, and on and on!

I have always been jealous of those gifted with the ability to create from nothing. It is truly a spark of the divine! My best artwork came when I was in 2nd grade… I won some kind of rodeo contest, I think. I was thrilled and though I’ve taken art classes occasionally since then, I’ve never been able to repeat that early success. But I digress…

So why would a person like me with no understanding of fashion spend time and money on a museum exhibit like that? Well, to be honest, I needed to see beauty. This world gets so ugly so easily – failing bodies, weighted souls, broken systems. Sometimes the world looks dark, but what a miracle it is to find beauty – to see what creative genius can do. It comforts the soul to hear great music, taste delicious food and, yes, see amazing fashion pieces!

There are times when art and beauty can seem pointless and perhaps even wasteful. I don’t pretend to know where the balance of art and function should lie, but I do know that we must have beauty in this world. I believe it points us to hope for something greater than ourselves.

I know that experiencing beauty isn’t going to solve any problems, but I’m grateful for it anyway. I’m grateful for the miracle that people are gifted with creative talent and the miracle that I can experience it. I’m thankful for reminders of hope and light and that beauty exists!

Think Happy Thoughts

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

by BRITTANY SENSEMAN, LPC-S

Think Happy Thoughts

When you read the word “family”, what feelings do you have? Some of you relaxed your faces and experienced joy, while others just got a knot in your stomachs as you felt the anxiety creep in. I want you to take a moment right now and figure out what you’re feeling. Seriously, stop reading and pay attention to what your body is telling you! I’ll wait…

Ok, now that you know what you’re feeling, I’d like you to think about how satisfied you are with that feeling. Are you happy with your reaction or do you wish it were different?

For those who are satisfied, congratulations! Either because of the choices of others or because of your own hard work, you have the luxury of family relationships that are enjoyable. This is not something to take for granted, so don’t!

I challenge you to take 5-10 minutes a couple of times a week (you can set a reminder on your phone if you want) and write down a positive memory you have with a family member. It doesn’t have to be a momentous occasion – it could be as simple as sharing a joke or taking a walk. This simple exercise will help you hold on to those positive feelings, and that will make your life better in every way! And for you over-achievers, you can share your memory with the family member involved in it to bring those positive feelings to them, too!

Now, for those who are not satisfied with your feelings about family… don’t despair! I wish I had the formula for how to fix every relationship and make it function beautifully, but I don’t – sorry! What I can offer is hope for better relationships in the future. That may begin by grieving the family relationships you have now. It’s important to first acknowledge what the relationship isn’t, so you can be content with what it is.

Once you have accepted how the relationship stands, you may decide to make some changes to make it better. I fully realize that this is not always possible or advisable. Improving a relationship requires each member of the relationship to make changes, and (let’s be real) most people don’t like to change. But, if you are lucky enough to be in relationship with someone who wants to make things better, talk to them! Share how you felt when you thought about your family!

If change isn’t possible for the relationship (and even if it is), I suggest that you focus on positive elements that you can identify. I know that for some of you, it may take some serious time and effort to find those positives, but it’s worth it! As I mentioned above, thinking about positive things gets a really good domino effect going.

Stressful thoughts activate systems in our body that signal it to be prepared to fight – increased vigilance, less sleep, decreased digestion, etc. Peaceful thoughts lead to an increase in neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin which leads to better sleep, better sex, and better mood. So, be intentional in your thinking!

I know we started with how you feel about the word “family” and ended up with neurotransmitters, but this is how our bodies work! You can change how you feel and how you behave, but you must CHOOSE to do so.

I hope this has encouraged you to make that choice and given you hope that you can enjoy your family this holiday season in a new and better way!

Trauma Resources

Monday, September 4th, 2017

Here is a list of resources for emotional management you may find helpful:

 

Making Friends

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017
By Brittany Senseman – MA, LPC-S, Principal

The summer before I turned 6 years old, I moved from West Texas to Houston, and it was a little rough at first. Where I used to live, there were lots of kids to play with who lived on my street. We just walked to each other’s houses and ran around all day. At my new house, I knew nobody; and because it was summer, there was no way to meet anyone at school. I got super bored and lonely very quickly… like I said, it was rough!

I used to ride my bike through the neighborhood looking for kids to play with; and even if I saw some, I was too embarrassed to just walk up and say, “Hi.” One day, I was again riding my bike in the cul-de-sac in front of my house, feeling completely miserable and alone. In a moment of desperation, I yelled at the top of my lungs, “I WANT SOME FRIENDS!”

To my surprise, a few minutes later, a boy who lived across the street started riding his bike in the cul-de-sac, too. Long story short: We became friends, and he introduced me to the other kids in the neighborhood. Hooray for a happy ending!

So, why am I reminiscing about my childhood? Well, it’s because I think friends are important and because there may be a lesson in this memory.

Friends matter because we are social creatures – we need people! Notice I’m saying friend with an “s” and people… not person. There is no way one individual can meet all of our needs, so we need backup. But there are times when it’s difficult to find these friends. For those of you who are in the middle of a move due to work or school (which often happens in the summer), this may be particularly pertinent for you.

Am I recommending that we start yelling in the street randomly when we’re lonely? Not quite, but sort of. Let’s look at my story a little more… Not much embarrasses an almost 6-year-old because she doesn’t know enough about social mores to feel ashamed. That said, I totally knew that it was weird to yell about my personal sorrow in the middle of the street. So why did I do it? I was desperate, and I knew that yelling couldn’t make anything worse. I assumed that anyone who happened to be home and heard me wouldn’t run out into the street, point their fingers, and laugh at me. And I was right!

I have generally found that people actually go out of their way to not make others feel ashamed. I think this is particularly the case when they are strangers or not close friends. When there is a higher degree of intimacy, some license is given because trust has been established. What this means for you is that when you’re trying to make friends, your risk of embarrassment is actually lower! Another thing to keep in mind is that many people around you are also trying to make friends and want to connect with new people. You’re not alone – I promise!

In summary, I’m encouraging you to be brave and strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know well or to join a book club or a workout group. Put yourself out there. Allow yourself to feel a little lonely and let it motivate you to make a change!

In the August newsletter, we’re including some ideas on where you can go to meet new people. So, pick a few that appeal to you and go for it! I wish you well in your figurative yelling in the street! 😉

The Burden of Politics

Friday, March 3rd, 2017
by Brittany Senseman, LPC-S, Principal

Burdens. That’s what I see most of the time in my office – people carrying heavy burdens desperate to find rest and peace. This is my work, and what I have done for the past 10+ years is meet hurting people in their dark moments and support them to a place of strength. I’ve been doing this for over ten years, but I have to say that the last six months or so have been different.

I’ve seen a new burden and have been hesitant to speak to it, and when I say what it is you’ll know exactly why I’ve been reluctant. It’s politics. Man, that one word was hard to write! Yes, politics is the new burden that has shown up in my office affecting individuals and families in a myriad of ways – and most of them were unexpected.

Relationships have been battered and some have ruptured. Hearts have been ignited and been broken. Some people have found a voice and gone hoarse in an effort to be heard while others have retreated into scared silence. Old memories of past traumas have resurfaced that seem unrelated to current events creating confusion and fear. These are just a few examples of what I’ve seen in my office over past few months.

The overall theme here is despair. Despair is not new to my office – I’m fairly well acquainted with it by now. I regularly work to find hope for clients who can hardly believe hope can still exist in their lives. But now this despair is on such a grand scale! Clients are despairing not just for themselves but for entire people groups, and I admit that hoping for a solution to meet the needs of an entire population is hard for me. In my office, I see how just two people have radically different needs and can’t fathom trying to find solutions for the needs of thousands or millions of people.

Over the past few months, it feels like a cloud has fallen, and in its fog we’ve lost our vision. If you’re seeking clarity, if you’re frustrated and spinning your wheels, if you’re sad and longing for comfort, read on…

Here’s my sage advice: HELP SOMEONE. Please don’t read that to mean “bring awareness to a cause”. Awareness can be paralyzing – knowing about all the brokenness of this world is absolutely overwhelming and depressing. If you want to feel better, get your body out of where is resides and take action to make another person’s day easier.

I can imagine some of you are arguing with me that you can do a lot of good from your computer or your phone or your bank – I don’t doubt it! But there is something about physically changing positions for benefit of another that just feels different. If you don’t believe me, try it!

Helping someone isn’t going to make the world whole again – it’s broken, guys. But I believe it’s a big part of what we’re made for, a big part of our purpose. We’re not supposed to be alone, and there is something deeply satisfying about connecting with another person when there’s no tangible benefit to us.

Some of you may have already found a place to engage and volunteer – awesome! For those who are still looking, we’ve listed some websites with volunteer opportunities for you to check out. If my words have stirred you even a little, don’t wait to click on at least one of these sites and see what’s out there.

Despair isn’t always bad. Yes, I’m a therapist and I just wrote that. Despair is a feeling to pay attention to – it’s a BIG feeling! It means that there’s something wrong, something off. So, don’t ignore the burden you may have felt for the past few months. It’s important, and you should look at it! But don’t stop with looking… ACT.

 

http://volunteerhouston.org/

https://www.volunteermatch.org/

http://www.houstonservice.org/#s

https://www.yelp.com/search?find_desc=Volunteer+Opportunities&find_loc=Houston%2C+TX

Making Christmas Mine

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016
Brittany Senseman, ACW Principal, LPC-S

Holidays are stressful – this is not news. The demands on our time and finances this time of year are exponentially greater than the rest of the year. There are obligations everywhere! Gift buying for family, co-workers, teachers, various service providers – the list goes on… We spend our time going to our kids’ Christmas programs, work parties, theater productions, watching traditional movies, etc. Between our hopes and expectations and everyone else’s, emotions run high. It’s a lot!

All of these obligations can take away our joy in this season. Well, I say – let’s take that joy back! We at ACW want to give you some practical ways to do just that. Here is list of things you can do that do not require anyone else’s participation and that require little to no money. Use this list to keep control over your joy this Christmas, and in doing so, you will be better equipped to bring joy to others.

Enjoy!!! 😉

  • Make gingerbread, or some other yummy (good smelling) food.
  • Sing Christmas carols at the top of your lungs in your house or car.
  • Volunteer at a local shelter or food bank.
  • Attend a Christmas concert – many churches offer them for free.
  • Journal about what Christmas means to you.
  • Do a random act of kindness. (If this challenge leaves you stumped, may we suggest buying the drink of the person behind you at Starbucks?)
  • Decorate something – go as elaborate as Buddy the Elf or as simple as changing the wallpaper on your phone to a Christmas tree.
  • Read the Christmas story from the Bible.
  • Watch that movie – White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, The Holiday, whatever it is for you that really feels like Christmas.
  • Go see Christmas lights.
  • People-watch at the mall while drinking a holiday latte.
  • Talk to a child about the miracle of Jesus’ birth and the wonder of Christmas time.
  • Wrap a gift nesting-doll style, so the recipient has to unwrap many layers to get to the gift.
  • Make a Spotify playlist of Christmas songs you like and rock out to them.

 

What will make you feel like you really had Christmas? Pick a couple of things and make them happen. Don’t let the chaos of December define this season for you. Make your spirits bright so you have more to give. Make Christmas your own.

Dreaming Well

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016
Brittany new headshotby Brittany Senseman, MA, LPC-S, Anthology Principal

“My life is not supposed to be this way.” Ever had that thought? I don’t know a person who hasn’t! We all grow up dreaming about how life will be, and those dreams are heavily influenced by our family and friends. We idealize those people who have it all together and seem so happy. But, let me let you in on a little secret – they also occasionally think their lives aren’t supposed to be this way, too!

So many of my clients, so many of them ask me if anyone else in the world struggles the way they do. And my constant answer is a resounding “YES!” As kids, we grow up dreaming of what it will be like to finally be a grownup – what our job will be, who we’ll marry, where we’ll live, etc. The options are limitless, and we’re told if we just work hard we can achieve anything!

And then we actually grow up and quickly realize that those dreams aren’t always achievable through hard work. A lot of the time, making those dreams happen requires another person, which means it’s out of our control – ouch! We work really hard on doing all the right things to be super attractive to the “right” person, but still may not find that stable, long term relationship.

And if you’re lucky enough to find someone to commit to, congratulations! You may even get married and make the official statement of commitment and exclusivity, but eventually you’ll find that your partner has a few unpleasant surprises lurking behind a door. And then those thoughts of “my life isn’t supposed to be this way” begin.

So, before I depress anyone any further… let’s look at that thought and break it down a bit. There are some major expectations and assumptions within the statement “my life isn’t supposed to be this way.” If we have any hope of changing that thought, it’s time to look closely at those expectations and assumptions. Specifically, what is my job supposed to look like? What kind of person am I supposed to marry? What kind of house am I supposed to be living in by age ____?

Some of these questions might be a bit awkward to answer. I think it’s an uncomfortable idea that sometimes we expect a certain lifestyle and are unhappy when we don’t get it. It feels entitled or ungrateful – perhaps it is! But acting like it isn’t there doesn’t help anyone.

So get real with yourself and find those areas of disappointment, so that you can see how big the gap is between expectations and reality. Once you’ve looked at it, now you can do something about it! It’s difficult, perhaps even impossible, to change reality (and that’s another topic altogether), so let’s look at those expectations.

First, let’s edit them for time and experience. Those dreams, assumptions, and expectations were set a long time ago before we had any experience or knowledge of ourselves. See what happens when you look at your job not for what you thought it would be in high school, but as you know it is now. Maybe you’re not as ambitious as you thought, or maybe your passion lies outside of your work. Expecting yourself to be high on the corporate ladder when you’re not ambitious is an unrealistic expectation.

When looking at assumptions in relationships, I think it can help to notice differences between the family you grew up in and your significant other. Our “normal” gets set (in some ways) by the routine of our family: dad worked every day 8-6 and came home and slept. If in your current family, dad works 9-2, he might seem lazy, or if dad wants to cook dinner every night he might feel intrusive.

As you’re looking at this, try to see the positives about not repeating the patterns of your original family. Try to see differences instead of disappointments – be open to the possibility that you may not actually know what will be the very best thing for family!

If you can move those dreams, assumptions, and expectations a little closer to reality you’re going to feel less disappointed! So, as you continue to dream for the future, I hope that these ideas make it easier to say “This is how I thought my life would be!”

Please feel free to contact me with questions or comments.

Adulting: Navigating Friendships

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016
Brittany new headshotby Brittany Senseman, MA, LPC-S, Principal

We spend lots of time trying to figure out how to do romantic relationships, but what about friendships? We have a lot more friends than we do romantic interests (or at least we should), so it makes sense to spend some time figuring out what a healthy adult friendship looks like.

I’m going to give you a completely oversimplified way of categorizing every single person on the planet into only two categories – yes, just two categories for 6 billion people. Here they are – safe and unsafe. Now, let me tell you what I mean by those two simple words.

In this context, “safe” means a person who loves and accepts the unedited version of you – basically, you can look or act in any way and a safe person will stick around. Now, that doesn’t mean that they won’t have a reaction to your behavior… but we’ll talk more of that later.

An “unsafe” person is everyone who isn’t a “safe” person. Clearly, there are a whole lot more unsafe people than safe people. In fact, you’re lucky if you have 3-5 safe people in your life. Now, there are varying degrees of unsafe people. Abusers are obviously unsafe, but people who can’t keep a secret also belong in the unsafe category. If you have to edit what you say to a person for fear that it will end up on social media, then they’re not safe.

You can still have relationships with unsafe people – you have to; there are too many not to. Those relationships will look different from relationships with safe people. With unsafe people, you won’t be able to share everything at all times. Sometimes you may have to edit a portion of a story, another time you may skip the story entirely, or perhaps you save the story for another day.

As an adult, you have significant control over whom you spend time with, so I suggest you pay attention to your ratio of time spent with safe vs. unsafe people. Unsafe people require more work (and the more unsafe they are, the more work they require), so you want to limit time spent with them. Make sure that you prioritize spending time with your safe people so you can socialize without having to expend much energy.

Notice I said “without having to spend much energy.” Safe people still require energy: they may need you to give them a break or be shoulder to cry on or go grab a beer just as much as you need them to. If you want someone to be available to you, you have to be available to them. That said, a safe person will let you draw a boundary if you just can’t be there. A person who isn’t okay with you drawing boundaries doesn’t belong in the safe category.

Sometimes your safe person may draw a boundary with you. Like I mentioned previously, a safe person will have a reaction to your behavior. If you’re having a terrible day and take it out on him/her, (s)he probably won’t like it! You might end up hearing about their displeasure – and that’s completely appropriate. Just because they’re safe, it doesn’t mean they’re a door mat. It just means that after you’ve taken your terrible day out on them, they’ll get frustrated/hurt and love you anyway. They don’t leave.

Safe people are a gift. I think they’re one of the greatest gifts, so don’t take them lightly. If you have safe people in your life, invest in them and tell them how grateful you are that they exist and continue to put up with you. And don’t forget to work on becoming a safe person yourself.



Interview: Making the Most of Your Children’s Summer

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

[We are proud to feature this interview with Amanda Lawrence, Educational Coordinator at The Harris School, loaded with great insight about how to spend summer with your children and preparing them for the start of the new school year well. Enjoy!]

Anthology Counseling and Wellness: What kinds of experiences should we be trying to give our children during the summer months?

Amanda Lawrence: Family time! Our lives are so busy that we don’t set enough time to just be together; parents are often juggling so much in their day to day lives. Commit to at least one day a week doing something fun as a family, get the children involved in planning the day. Limit the use of electronics and just have fun together creating memories.

The summer is a great time to build upon your child’s experiences and interests. Take your child to the library to get them excited about reading, let them explore and choose books that interests them, encourage them to look at both fiction and factual books. A trip to the museum can help generate a love for art, science, or history. These places can really highlight what your child is passionate about, and you can use this as a springboard to explore the topic of interest further together. Giving your child plenty of opportunities to be creative is so important. Summer is the perfect time to let your child’s imagination run wild and stimulate creativity. There are lots of fun ideas for art and craft project online; once you find an area of interest to your child, you can really have fun completing projects together. And finally, keeping active is also essential during the summer months. One good option is to sign your child up for local recreational or sports programs. Let your child choose what interests them – they may even want try something new.

 

ACW: What needs to happen during the summer to encourage our kids to be excited about learning?

AL: A lot of children think of learning as something that only happens inside their classroom. The summer break is great time for them to have some real hands on learning experiences, as well as realize that learning can take place wherever they are. You can use almost any everyday task as fun learning opportunity. I’ve listed just a few examples.

  • Cooking dinner: have your child read out the recipe steps, measure the ingredients, mix, pour, set the timer, divide the food in to equal portions etc.
  • Grocery shopping: have them write their own shopping list, find the ingredients at the store and count the money they’ll need to pay.
  • If you are going on vacation, have your child research where you are going by looking at maps, exploring how you will get there, researching places you can visit, perhaps even creating an itinerary for the family. Once you arrive, you can expand the learning further by giving them a daily spending allowance for food and helping them plan and budget.

The opportunities are endless and these real life experiences will help them connect the skills they are learning in the classroom with real life situations. They’ll enjoy the responsibility of completing these ‘grown up’ jobs and this will help build upon their love of learning.

 

ACW: What do you think of audiobooks? Are they as good a way to expose children to literature as reading aloud to them or having the kids read on their own?

AL: I love audiobooks. I use them personally and have used them in the classroom. They are a great way to inspire the reluctant readers and to bring the whole family together in the magic of a novel. To listen and follow along to an audiobook requires a complete different set of skills to independent reading: children are developing their critical listening skills and following along to a story at a fast pace. Audiobooks can introduce children to books above their reading level with more complex and exciting stories, which will also familiarize them to new vocabulary. Over the holidays many families travel: this brings about the perfect opportunity for audiobooks. Listening as a family is great way to get the whole family involved in the same novel and generate discussions and interests. Audiobooks definitely can play a positive role in your child’s reading journey, but should be used along side independent reading and reading aloud to give your child a richer reading experience.

 

ACW: Do you have any recommended resources – math worksheets, flash cards, penmanship workbooks, or books to read for kids?

AL: There is an abundance of great resources available for children these days. Some children love nothing more than a grade leveled activity book, with shiny stickers in the back! If you’re child is one of these children then that’s great – encourage it and take your child to a local book store to pick out some fun activities books to keep them busy and stimulated over the summer weeks. However, to some children, nothing sounds more boring than sitting down and completing that workbook. Ff your child is like this, that’s also completely fine! It just indicates that they most likely have a different style of learning. For these types of learners, you might want to consider buying a complex lego set that they can work on throughout the summer instead; they too will be practicing all those important skills, like reading instructions, problem solving, counting, estimating etc., but in a way that is more exciting to them. Either way, try not to overwhelm them and let them move at their own pace.

You can also review important skills by incorporating short activities in your day. Choose a math problem to solve over breakfast each morning. Play a spelling/word association game when driving in the car. Set aside some time after dinner each evening to read together. The internet is a great resource and has some great free educational sites that children can review important skills in a game format. A popular site with my students is abcya.com.

 

ACW: What have you seen that helps kids prepare for the transition back to school?

AL: After the long break, preparing your child for the transition back to school is important. The summer is full of fun, freedom, late nights and excitement; it is understandable why children struggle to get back into the routine and expectations when school starts. The biggest obstacle is getting children back in the habit of an early bedtime and wake up, the start of school often includes a tired bunch of kiddos by the end of the week. I think one of the best things parents can do is to get started early, a week or two before school starts, bringing about more structure and routine to your child’s day. Reducing bedtime by 10 minutes each night until you are back to a typical bedtime routine is a great way to break the habit of a late bedtime. If you have something fun planned early in the morning to encourage your child to be ready for an early start.

The start of school also comes with a lot of anxiety from children. New classroom, new teacher, and sometimes a new school are big changes in their lives. This is why you should prepare your child as much as possible for these changes during the summer. Take full advantage of the open house or meet the teacher: this is a great opportunity to reduce anxiety and get children ready for their new adventure. I once had a very anxious student who was extremely worried about having a new teacher. On the evening of meet the teacher, he came to me with an ‘All about me’ book that he and his mom had made over summer. The book gave me an insight into all his favorite things, dislikes, and key things about him. This made for a great ‘ice breaker’ and really helped him overcome his anxiety about meeting me.

The other thing that can really help the transition back to school is to keep in touch with your child’s classmates. This not only gives children opportunities to socialize with their peers, but more importantly, it provides them with a connection to school and the positive feelings that come with it. They will reminisce about school together and thus generate excitement for the new school year.

 

ACW: How do you know when your child needs tutoring?

AL: Your child’s report card should be a good indicator as to where your child is, and should highlight any areas where your child would benefit from some extra support. The best way to really tell if your child needs a tutor is by listening to your child. Is your child anxious about moving up a grade level or going back to school? If so, this could be a sign that they are struggling academically and would benefit from extra support. Listen to how they talk about the different subjects at school – while of course every child has prefers some subjects to others, more often than not a strong dislike is due to them feeling less confident in that area. Sometimes a child might be doing fine academically but still very under-confident, perhaps even anxious, about their abilities; these children would also benefit from a tutor to help build upon their self-esteem and make them feel confident in their abilities. The summer is a perfect time to hire a tutor and give your child that one-on-one support. Tutoring can instill a newfound confidence in your child and make them ready for the new school year. When in doubt as to whether to hire a tutor or not, if you can, then do! It can do no harm whatsoever; all children can benefit from having someone solely focused on them.

About Anthology

We are a group of professionals dedicated to promoting health and healing in the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. We believe that healing occurs more effectively and more efficiently when each facet of a person is addressed. Our group is comprised of professional counselors and a psychiatrist.