By: Kathryn Ferrara

There are a variety of factors which impact the likelihood of an individual developing a substance use and/or mental health disorder. Effective prevention reduces the risk factors while strengthening the protective factors associated with drug use and other problem behaviors. Parental involvement and positive relationships with caregivers are two of the chief protective factors identified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

School breaks, such as summer vacation which on the horizon, can provide an excellent opportunity for families to enjoy time together. 

See some of the suggestions and resources below to help plan a fun and memorable summer that can strengthen the bonds between you and your kids:

Arts & Crafts: Art can be a great way to bond as a family. It allows everyone to take a break from technology and focus on creating something as a family.  Working on something together can also help kids relax and open up to their families about things that may be on their mind. Check out these great resources for some simple ideas to get started:

Family Book Club: This is a great way to make reading a fun experience while creating an opportunity for family members to connect to one another. For younger children, they can take turns choosing books to be read aloud by an adult family member who can then lead a discussion afterwards. For older kids, they can take turns choosing books for the whole family to read independently before coming together to discuss them. There isn’t one right way to utilize this idea. It’s all about creating an enjoyable shared experience. Check out some ideas below, but remember to make it your own:

Fun with Food: According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), children whose families share regular meals together are less likely to smoke, drink, or use illicit drugs. Regular family meal times also have a positive impact on mental health and academic performance. Finding ways to involve kids in the kitchen to prepare meals creates additional time to bond. Read cookbooks and browse online recipes with kids to find things they are interested in learning to make. Have them come to the grocery store to buy the ingredients needed and work together in the kitchen to prepare the meal. Creative theme nights (taco bar, breakfast for dinner) is another way to make dinner a fun experience. However, hectic family schedules with work, sports, and other activities can make having dinner together a challenge. Having breakfast together or a family dessert time at the end of the evening are alternative ways to get the entire family sitting at the table together. 

Game Night: Family game night is fun and beneficial for child development.  Board games, card games, or even simple communication games such as I-Spy or 20 Questions is a great way to bond as a family while engaging kids without technology.  Creating your own family board game can take this idea a step further by giving the family a fun summer project to work on!

Get Outdoors: Picnics, scavenger hunts, hikes, trips to the park, backyard campouts… the possibilities for outdoor family fun are endless! Check out some resources below to help you plan some outdoor activities:

Movie Night: There are so many ways to put a fun spin on the traditional family movie night. Have young kids make and “sell” tickets and concessions. They can also take turns picking the movie. You can even have an outdoor movie night with the right set up. Check out more ideas here to make movie night unforgettable for the whole family!

Take a Walk Down Memory Lane: Sharing family stories, looking through photo albums, creating scrapbooks, and watching home videos is not only an enjoyable experience for many families, but it’s a great catalyst for discussion with kids about your family’s core values. When kids understand and appreciate their family values, it can help inform their decision making.

 

You can also take a look at what your town’s recreation department has to offer. Check out the online summer brochures below:

By: Kathryn Ferrara

As COVID-19 has spread throughout the country it brought many devastating effects to communities, including a rapid rise in mental health struggles. According to recent data from Mental Health America (MHA),  the number of people with moderate to severe symptoms of depression and anxiety steadily increased throughout 2020. Current rates remain higher than those prior to the onset of the pandemic. This data serves as an important reminder to everyone reading that they are not alone, as mental health struggles remain rampant in current times.  Loss of employment or pandemic-related job stress, financial concerns, disrupted routines, and isolation caused by social distancing measures have taken a serious toll on the overall health and well-being of people among all communities.

Prioritizing self-care is a crucial part of coping with stress and anxiety in a healthy way. Ways to do this include:

Research shows that meditation can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. There are many types of meditation, and plenty of free resources available to help guide you through the process of getting started. Here’s a great starter guide for beginners, including some free audio practices.

The radical changes the pandemic has brought to our lifestyles has made it challenging to find ways to incorporate physical activity into our daily routine. Check out these strategies for engaging in physical activity while maintaining social distancing.

Nutrition is important, but sometimes having a healthy diet is easier said than done. It can take time, effort, and money that many simply don’t have. Fortunately, there are plenty of tips available for those looking to improve their diet in a way that fits their lifestyle and resources. Take a look at this excellent resource for easy recipes for busy families, tips for meal planning and prepping to reduce cooking time, and grocery shopping on a budget.

There is plenty of research that links quality sleep to optimal physical and mental health. Achieving this is another task that can be easier said than done for many, especially as stress and anxiety can make it difficult to fall and stay asleep. These healthy sleep tips can be a great starting point for those looking to learn more about how to foster optimal sleep schedules, bedtime routines, and pro-sleep habits.

Figure out what you enjoy and make time for it where you can. Research shows that engaging in leisurely activities can “induce positive emotions and reduce stress.” It may look a little different than what you are used to while social distancing measures continue, as some activities that people enjoy such as traveling aren’t as feasible right now. However, this can be an excellent opportunity to explore some new interests. Check out these creative suggestions for spending your free time in a safe, yet enjoyable way.

It’s important to remember that distance doesn’t mean disengagement. When life is absent of meaningful connections with others, it could lead to feelings of isolation which contribute to depression and anxiety. There is no doubt that socializing in current times is challenging and requires a bit of creativity. With that said, staying engaged with our loved ones is still possible even while following social distancing guidelines.  Here’s some simple suggestions for safely maintaining social connections.

However, some may find these strategies are not enough to manage the feelings of depression and anxiety that they are experiencing. It is important to remember that help is available! Figuring out where to start can feel like a daunting task, especially with the draining effect mental health struggles have on our energy and motivation.  Check out this compilation of free, confidential resources available for those looking for help for themselves or a loved one.

You may also contact thedapc@gmail.com if you would like additional information and resources.

(more…)

The DAPC has a new website

You ever walk into a Starbucks , a restaurant, a store or anywhere for that matter and see the majority of people staring intently at their phones? Did you ever wonder why they do this? Well, the tech world is the reason. They try to hijack your brain.  There’s a whole playbook of techniques that get used to get you using the product for as long as possible. For some interesting insight Click here.

If you have a teenager, you know what I mean. Most teens don’t get to bed until late and have to get up way too early for school. They are like zombies in the morning. It not only affects their ability to learn but also other important things like driving a car. Check out a teen’s perspective on this issue. Click here

Communication is a key to a healthy relationship with your child. But what happens when they ask you the dreaded questions – Did you drink when you were my age? Did you smoke pot? How do you respond?  Do you tell them the truth? Do you lie? Click here to read a great article on this subject.