By Staci Chambers, LSW – August 25, 2021 –

The last year and a half has certainly provided its fair share of uncertainties and changes. From school and business closures to stay-at-home orders, we have all had to adjust. Those adjustments inevitably lead to spending extended periods of time at home.

For some, this provided a silver lining among all the stress the pandemic generated:  more time with family. That time allowed for more flexible schedules and challenged us to find new ways to connect and comfort our family members. As time has progressed, it seems that our planners are beginning to fill up once again.

It is easy to get caught back up in our busy schedules like before as we return to school and work. The family time that was so precious during the prime of the pandemic is now more limited. The following are simple and inexpensive ways to incorporate family time into our schedules as we become busy again.

1. Prioritize mealtimes. Whether it is breakfast or dinner, at the table or on the couch, mealtimes are great opportunities to reconnect and update each other on recent experiences. Cooking a meal together may even be a fun task to complete together.

2. Plan a family night. At least once a month, plan a family night in. This may include takeout night, movie night, or game night. The kids will love to help plan this.

3. Go on regular evening walks with your family. When the weather permits, going on a walk with the family is a simple way to get some fresh air, chat, and exercise.

4. Be a part of the kids’ bedtime routine. This applies more to families with younger children. Make it part of the nightly bedtime routine to tuck them into bed and read them a book. This is a great way to wind down from the day with your child.

5. Create a group chat for texting. This applies more to families with older children. Creating a group chat for the entire family is a convenient way to share stories, pictures, and day-to-day experiences with one another. 

Time is a worthy investment to make when it comes to your family. Small strides to keep your family members connected can make all the difference. Consider implementing just one of these ideas into your family’s routine as the bustle of returning to school and work unfolds.

One concept that is ever present in my mind these days is adjusting to the “new normal.” Among all of the other changes we have had to adopt, why not make prioritizing time with your family another “new normal?” This is one that all members of the family are sure to appreciate and benefit from.

Support Youth First by purchasing half pot raffle tickets now! The winner will be drawn on September 5, 2021. Raffle tickets can be purchased from Youth First staff and board members, at the Youth First office Monday through Friday 8am to 12pm, or by filling out the contact form here.

By Kelli Chambers, LCSW – August 18, 2021 –

When we talk to fellow parents about how hard our jobs can be, we often hear responses like, “Oh yeah, I’ve experienced that too. That’s just part of being a mom/dad.” Sometimes it feels as if your child’s needs are endless and seem impossible to manage. Of course our child’s happiness is what we as parents strive for, but sometimes we need more.

We often hear about how people feel burnt out in their jobs or even in their relationships, but rarely do we hear about feeling burnt out on parenting. It almost feels taboo because parents have been taught that being tired, stressed, and overwhelmed is just part of it.

Social media plays a big role with the expectation of being the “perfect” family who has it all together. These expectations are unrealistic and untrue. There will inevitably be times of stress, chaos, and unhappy emotions in every family.

So what does parental burnout look like? Burnt out parents are exhausted from the never-ending demands of parenting. They can feel as if they are on autopilot or in survival mode. Your sleep can be negatively affected – both the amount and quality. Going to work can serve as a relief. There, you might feel calm, focused, and successful, where you might not feel that at home.

Parental burnout can be broken down into three categories: exhaustion, detachment, and inefficacy. Just as it sounds, exhaustion is never getting to fully recharge. Detachment is being less able to take pleasure in day-to-day activities with your children. Lastly, inefficacy shows through when parents feel they are ineffective in their parenting.

We can’t give what we don’t have. It is our responsibility as parents to identify when we are struggling and to make a decision about what to do about it. Our kids ultimately feel the consequences of our lack of self-awareness or self-care.

One of the biggest effects on our kids is when we are not able to attune to them. We can’t be our most patient, loving, and nurturing selves if we are disconnected from our own needs.

Parents often struggle with taking time to do something for themselves when they could be doing something for their child instead. By taking care of ourselves, our kids are reaping a bigger benefit. They get a parent who is fully present and engaged. Here are a few ways to alleviate some of your burnout symptoms:

  1. Reach out to your doctor or therapist to discuss any concerns.
  2. Ask your partner to take something off of your plate or utilize daycare to give yourself time to rest or do something that makes you happy.
  3. Give yourself permission to say no to demands that will stretch you too thin.
  4. Communicate your needs to your partner/loved ones.
  5. Prioritize your sleep.
  6. Take care of your body through exercise, healthy eating, etc.

Another good way to do a self-check is to use Dr. Oscar Serrallach’s acronym SPAN. Identify what your true needs are and determine what you need to do to fulfill them.

S- Sleep

P- Purpose

A- Activity

N- Nutrition

Parenthood, at times, can be a difficult and thankless job, but it is a job many of us would not trade for anything. Being mindful of your needs allows for a better version of yourself, and your kids will directly benefit.

By Diane Braun, Project Manager – August 12, 2021 –

Many parents struggle with getting their young child’s attention and teaching them to follow simple directions such as picking up toys, throwing away a napkin, or going to bed. What’s the secret to getting them to listen?

It starts with making the direction as simple as possible. There might be a long list of things to do before bedtime, but most children aged three to five have trouble devoting attention to more than one task at a time.

Saying something like, “Please pick up your toys, brush your teeth, and get your pajamas on,” will probably result in no action by the child at all. These are called “chain directions,” which are usually more appropriate for older children. Breaking the chain down to one link or task at a time will result in better understanding.

Vague directions can also be a problem. Saying “Behave yourself!” or “Be careful!” are not specific directions. Instead, explain how you expect your child to behave. Telling them directly what you expect helps them understand your expectations. Phrases like, “I expect you to sit quietly while we watch the movie” are much more effective.

Notice that directions should not be presented as a question. “Would you like to pick up your toys now?” is a question that most children would say no to. “It’s time to pick up your toys” is a direct statement of expectation. Keeping the direction short and to the point makes the task seem more doable to a child.

Tone of voice is also important when giving directions. Many parents have “THAT VOICE” they use when they want to get a child’s attention. Most children recognize when they are being told to do something with no room for negotiation.

When a small child begins learning to follow directions, you may have to say it a few times before they comply. Once they start listening and following through, remember to recognize that they’ve listened and done what was asked.

Rewards for good behavior don’t have to cost money—a high five, happy dance, or an extra ten minutes of television before bedtime are all exciting for small children. Use these incentives to encourage positive behavior in the future.