Improving care. Changing lives.

President's Blog ~ August 2018

Bob Franks

As we begin the new school year, it’s hard to believe how quickly summer vacation has gone by. This past year has been extremely eventful. Families have been inundated with news, social media and daily challenges. For many, summer is a time to reset, spend time with family and enjoy a “break” from our busy lives. For others, the summer may have been challenging—especially for families who have children with behavioral health and special education challenges where the lack of structure and intensity of “togetherness” can be both demanding and stressful.

At Judge Baker, we try to support families in every way we can. In the past year, we have expanded our programs, launched new initiatives and examined important issues like the cultural competency of our staff. We are always striving to improve and provide the highest quality services to families. In our constantly changing world, children and adolescents face new stressors and potential sources of stress. As technology becomes present in all aspects of our lives, parents and caregivers must cope with increasing demands by their children for screen time, social media and new ways of connecting and communicating. How much is too much? How do we transition our kids from “vacation time” to “school time”?

One of the biggest challenges children with behavioral health challenges face is dealing with transition. Ideally, parents and caregivers provide consistent guidance and limits for their children. It’s difficult to go from unlimited screen time to none at all. It’s also difficult to go from no structure to a highly structured school environment. As the summer draws to a close and school begins, it is best for parents to help ease that transition by helping their children acclimate to the changes ahead. Setting earlier bed times, eating meals at regular times and waking up earlier to an alarm are all ways to bridge that transition. Some strategies to help children adjust to the changes ahead may include appropriate limits on screen time, encouragement to read for pleasure, and maintaining a consistent routine. It can be most difficult when children show up at school without the necessary time to adjust and adapt to the new schedule. Parents and caregivers can begin this process in the last weeks of summer and first weeks of school. One of the best things you can do for your child is to try and ensure they get a good night’s sleep and adjust to a routine.

Socialization is also important. At Judge Baker, we ran both a successful summer school program for many of our Manville School students as well as a successful summer camp like experience at our Summer Enrichment Institute. These programs help children experience a structured and therapeutic routine in the summer months as well as enhance their development. At home, parents and caregivers can find opportunities for their children to interact socially with others and practice their social skills. While some children struggle with unstructured social activities, having the opportunity to be with peers with appropriate supervision can help children with their socialization and prepare them for the upcoming school year.

When parents and caregivers need extra support or help—with their very young children, school aged children or adolescents, our Center for Effective Child Therapy (CECT) can help. Providing only evidence-based treatments for problems such as anxiety, depression, behavior problems, ADHD and PTSD, our CECT can often provide help to families who have struggled to find interventions that are effective. We have helped families who experience hope and improvement for the first time after seeing our highly trained clinicians.

As these last days of summer come to an end, try to enjoy and appreciate this time with your family. When the new school year starts and our hectic lives begin again, taking the time to plan now for the changes ahead will help make a smoother transition in the weeks ahead.