Separation anxiety and going back to school

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It’s the beginning of August, and that means it’s back to school time! Whether your child is excited about school or has some anxiety around going back to school, we’re here to talk about how to help your child with separation anxiety as they get back into the routine of things this August.

What is separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety refers to excessive fears or worries about separation from home or an attachment figure. It’s normal for a child to experience this type of anxiety early on in their life. But as they develop, the child should be learning healthy ways to interpret their relationships (especially with their parents), and with their surroundings.

If a child does not develop these normal boundaries around the age of two or three, you might want to take a closer to see if they might experiencing some sort of anxiety.

What does separation anxiety look like at a young age?

There are many different ways that separation anxiety might manifest itself in a young child. The child might cling to their parent, and not want to be very far away from their parent. They might cry or throw a tantrum when the parent leaves the room or tries to drop them off for school.

Fear of being alone, fear of their attachment figure being gone too long, or worrying about something potentially happening to them are all thoughts a child might have.  They might have nightmares or episodes of panic. This type of anxiety can also present in physical symptoms like headaches, stomach aches, or nausea.

It’s normal for your child to have some anxiety about going back to school.

Going back to school for a child often presents a major change in routine and environment. This can be distressing to a child at any age. If your child is young they might be experiencing separation anxiety because they will be away from their primary attachment figure.

If they are older, they might be experiencing worries of making new friends or getting lost on the way to class. All of these fears are valid for a person going back to school. Trying to coax the reasons of why the child is feeling this way, are not necessarily the best course of action.

Dr. Melissa Estavillo says giving your child love and support is important during this change.

In our latest Youtube video, Dr. Estavillo talks about how pushing them in an overconfident way might actually increase some separation anxiety. Her solution is to show your kids a lot of love. Create a warm and comfortable atmosphere where you and your children can connect before they head back to school.

And Erin Leonard, PhD from Psychology Today agrees stating, ’empathetic listening and reassurance are the requirements in raising an unanxious child.’ When you are creating a loving environment, it lets your children know you support them and believe in them. It also gives them space to process their emotions and feelings about going back to school and being separated from you.

What are some practical tips to help my child?

Dr. Estavillo also gives us a few hands-on practical tips in our latest Youtube video.

  1. Write handwritten notes and put them in your child’s backpack or lunch with encouraging and loving messages.
  2. Giving “kisses in their hands”, and letting them know if they feel nervous or anxious they can take their hands and place them on their cheeks letting them know they have their parents kisses and love with them all day.
  3. Giving them a locket they can wear around their neck or wrist with a picture of someone they love. They can open the locket when they’re feeling sad and know they are loved and supported.
  4. Having them wear a ‘good luck’ item of clothing that they can feel special in.

Going back to school is an adjustment for the entire family. Having the knowledge to help your child through this sometimes difficult time, is important for a smooth transition from summer break to back to school!

Dealing with the aftermath of a mass shooting

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It’s back to school time, and many of us are sending our kids off with backpacks stuffed to the brim. It seems to be a little more somber drop-off, as we listen to news stories about the recent mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.

We are left wondering how we process such events? And do we talk to our children about these events as they head into a new school year?

How to talk to your kids about it

In an article on Psychology Today, suggestions are to plan out a conversation with your kids ahead of time. Having certain talking points can help you answer your children’s questions confidently. Making sure you are taking the time to focus on them, and what they might be feeling is key in keeping the anxiety and worry low while heading back into the school hallways.

Our take: An interview from Dr. Melissa Estavillo

Our very own Dr. Melissa Estavillo did an interview yesterday for KTAR News about this topic as well. She states that talking to your kids, “needs to be age-appropriate. Giving too much information can cause a lot of anxiety and fear, and that’s not the goal.”

She goes on to say that letting our children know we need to be prepared for certain situations and that practicing drills and being aware of our surroundings, can help keep them safe.

How can we start to process these shootings?

While it seems easy to say these acts of violence stem from people who have poor mental health, experts warn to tread lightly when using mental illness as a scapegoat.

It’s logical to deduce that psychological issues play a part in gun violence. However, the issue can and does go way beyond the perpetrator’s mental state. It should force our society to look at several different factors including access to guns, social and political context, individual psychological distress, access to mental health providers etc.

Trying to stay open to possibilities of “why”

It’s hard to be open to alternative thoughts when a mass shootings has just occurred. We (as a society) feel immediate fear and anger and point the finger directly at the individual or beliefs of the individual. But to say that guns are to blame, or the individual themselves is to blame, is to ignore many other variables we may never have the answers to.

During these tough times it is okay to take a break from the constant negative news real. It’s okay to take a moment for yourself to feel all the emotions you need to feel.

Dr. Estavillo weighs in on AZ Family Channel 3 and 5

Check our Dr. Melissa Estavillo’s on-air interview with AZ Family, as she talks about background checks and mental health after mass shootings.

While she agrees that there is something “not right” with the perpetrator, she also thinks that isolation and poor social skills are more likely the culprits. Click here to see her interview.

What now?

After these terrible events happen, we can find ourselves dealing with a lot of emotions. We can feel fear, anxiety, depression, hopelessness and much more.

According to the American Psychological Association, there are a few things you can do to manage your distress.

  1. Talk about it: talking about it and sharing your experience can help you and your family feel less alone. It also creates a platform for opportunities to learn, educate, and help those impacted by the tragedy.
  2. Strive for balance: it’s easy to cross over to the pessimistic side when shootings occur, but trying to remain hopeful and striving for a meaningful balance in your life is important.
  3. Take a break: turning off the tv or the radio, and getting off social media are just a few things you can do to take a break from the constant information about the shooting.
  4. Honor your feelings: know that you are not alone. Everyone has an emotional reaction to these events, and it’s okay to feel sad, angry, exhausted, lost.
  5. Take care of yourself: take a walk. Surround yourself with positive friends and family, or write in your journal. Take some time for self-care right now.
  6. Help others: if you’re in the same area, reach out to victims or family of victims and lend a hand. Donate items of clothing or food to the survivors and their families. Reach out to your local community and legislature to ask what you can do to stop these episodes from happening.
  7. Seek help: reach out to a mental health provider in your area to help you process what you’re feeling and what is happening.


How much time on social media is healthy?

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How much social media is too much?

The use of social media, like Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, or Twitter has become overwhelmingly popular in modern communication. So much so, that the question of how much time is “too much” time on social media is being asked by many.

According to a study done by Digital Information World, the average user is currently spending two hours and 22 minutes on social media a day. And that time is increasing every year.

The idea of social media is great at its core concept. It is used to connect people, businesses, and information all over the world. It is a way to keep in contact with loved ones that do not live close. It’s also a great tool for businesses to communicate with potential consumers and market their products and services. There is no doubt about the usefulness of social media. However, the doubt comes when we see the time spent on these applications and the impact they could be having on our day to day life.

The more time teens spend on social media linked to depression.

There was a recent study conducted by JAMA Pediatrics, on how screen time might be affecting teens in this current day and age. They report ‘a positive association between screen time and depression in adolescents’. Depression is common among adults and teens. However, when teens become more depressed it can impact their developmental processes academically, socially, and cognitively. Teens who report depression often have lower self-esteem and can have poor relationships with peers and adults.

The impact on adults.

As for adults, social media can have a major impact on our focus, productivity, relationships, as well as self-esteem. We can see those who suffer with work performance and maintaining relationships as constant notifications pop up encouraging the checking of personal social media sites. Social media can often give illusions to things that might not be the reality. People post pictures and videos that are edited and staged to make their life appear at its best. It is very common for both adults and teens to spend a large amount of time on these platforms, and then feel personally inadequate or lesser if their own lives do not compare.

The Comparison Trap

A great article on Psychology Today talks about The Comparison Trap that a lot of us find ourselves in with increased usage of multiple social sites. A certain amount of comparison, and measuring ourselves against our peers, is normal and can be helpful for inspiration, motivation, and drive. But they can also leave us feeling less than, and lead to more feelings of low self-image, depression, anxiety, etc. We start to care more about things we never cared about in the past. Like creating the picture-perfect living room, or baking that magazine-ready cake, or stocking the perfectly healthy fridge. We spend more time now thinking and caring about keeping up with the perfect pictures of people we have never met in person.

It’s not all bad!

There is much to say about the time we spend on social media and the negative impacts it could have on us, but truly it is about how and why we use these sites. If we use them as tools to engage, support, and connect with others it can be wonderful and uplifting. But if we continue to use them to pass the time, compare ourselves to others, or obsessively see what is going on in others lives, they will continue to have ill effects on our mental health.



What is Emotionally Focused Therapy, or EFT?

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Hello! And welcome to our blog.

For the month of May, we are going to be talking about different modalities, or types or therapy. Today Dr. Melissa Estavillo talks about EFT or Emotionally Focused Therapy. EFT is a modality that our therapists use often here at Biltmore Psychology and Counseling for Couples counseling.

Click on the video to learn about how this could help you and your relationships! Have a question you’d like answered in a future video? Tell us in the comments section on youtube!