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Sweetser Radio Minutes are 60-second radio spots that have aired on radio stations throughout the state of Maine. The spots feature Sweetser staff sharing helpful parenting tips.

Celebrate the Holidays Safely

If your holiday festivities include alcohol, please drink responsibly. Alcohol can be used to enhance enjoyment, however, it can also mask feelings of loneliness and sadness, which are often heightened at this time. When the people around you object to your drinking, this should serve as a warning, since friends typically want what is best for you. Limit your drinking. If you find it difficult to drink moderately — or to stop completely — seek out professional help from a qualified substance abuse counselor or your doctor. By taking care of yourself this season, you can ensure a healthier new year.

Holiday Priorities

Hectic holiday schedules and a natural desire to meet everyone’s expectations makes this a challenging and exhausting time. By adjusting your priorities, you can create more healthy and manageable holidays. In the Charles Dickens classic —A Christmas Carol —Scrooge embraced the spirit of the season when he gave to those less fortunate than him. Consider his lesson during this season and its many celebrations. Contact a local nonprofit and ask how you can volunteer with your family. Is there someone in your community, workplace or school that you could reach out to with the gift of friendship? Your richest gift this season could be the personal reward of making life brighter for others.

Avoiding the Holiday Blues

The holidays bring expectations of togetherness, harmony and celebration, but they are sometimes filled with stress, conflict and disappointment for families. At Sweetser, we find that families weather the holidays better when they work together in creating realistic expectations about what’s possible in terms of time and money. Together, you can prioritize what is most important, placing family before material things. Also, consider limiting the number of holiday gatherings you attend and don’t feel obligated to meet everyone’s expectations. Other ways to cope include pacing yourself, eating right, getting plenty of sleep, exercising regularly, making a budget (and sticking with it) and spending time with people who care about you.

Helping Children Prepare for Bedtime

As the summer winds down, parents can help their children develop healthy sleep cycles for the upcoming school year. At least two to three weeks prior to school, parents should gradually start waking their children up earlier and getting them to bed earlier, as well. You can help your child get a sound night’s sleep by not offering caffeine-filled snacks, like soda or chocolate, within four hours of bedtime. Exciting or stimulating activities, such as playing video games, chatting on the telephone or watching certain television shows, also should be wrapped up at least an hour before bed. Encourage quiet activities, such as reading. When well rested, your child will be better able to learn, play and succeed.

Effective Parenting Styles

Studies have shown that a highly effective parenting style is when a parents provide high levels of warmth and affection and an equal amount of appropriate control and limit setting. When combined, these influences go a long way in helping children develop successfully. Your toddler, for example, needs lots of cuddling and contact, but he also needs firm limits that are consistent and predictable. Also, don’t be fooled by your prickly teenager. She still needs the occasional hug, and, just as importantly, she needs you to establish rules, which she, in turn, needs to test. Learn to strike the balance between respecting your teen’s privacy, but letting them know you’re still there to protect and hug them.

Getting Involved in Your Childs Online Experience

The Internet is a wonderful tool for learning, giving your child unlimited information. However, their wanderings on the World Wide Web can lead them to inappropriate and unhealthy places. Since most children are more technologically savvy than their parents, adults can be intimidated to set limits. Despite a generation gap, take an active role. Pull up a chair and regularly ask them to show you the sites they visit. Ask questions and tell your kids “no” when a site isn’t appropriate. Also, parental controls, or net nannies, are a great tool, but not always reliable. Your consistent interest and involvement is the best way to keep the Internet a positive experience for your family.

Keeping the Chat Experience Safe for Your Child

Children have an unprecedented opportunity for meeting people all over the world. Internet chat rooms and messaging offers an opportunity to meet new friends and those with similar interests. Online, however, children can sometimes be inappropriate or talk to unsafe strangers. If your child talks with someone regularly, ask to be introduced. Say hello and let them know you’re an involved parent. Remind your kids that the Internet’s anonymous nature provides a false sense of safety. Ask if your child has misrepresented themselves online? If so, point out that others might do the same to a stronger degree. Whether its online or offline, parents play an important role in managing their children’s relationships, keeping them healthy and safe.

Telling Your Kids About Divorce

Telling your child that you are separating or divorcing is the hardest thing you may ever share with your child. Even though communication may be difficult with your soon-to-be ex, for the sake of your child, take the time and energy it requires to join together on how and when you will share this development. Whenever possible, tell your child together. Reassure your child that it is not their fault, and that their role in the family will not be changing. Keep your child’s age in mind, since younger children can only take in so much information. Adolescents, however, will need specific details to feel secure. While your situation is altering your family, your commitment to being united in parenting your child is a life-time commitment.

Sibling Rivalry

It’s normal for brothers and sisters to have feelings of jealousy and competition. While we can ignore minor disagreements, parents need to intervene if one child is hurting another.  Respect each child’s need for privacy and understand that not every prized possession needs to be shared.  Help siblings find activities they can do away from each other, but also praise them when they are getting along well.  Most importantly, create time for each child to be alone with you.

Violence and Kids

Exposure to violence can make children less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others. It can also make them more fearful of the world around them and more likely to act aggressively. You can help children by offering them alternative forms of entertainment that promote togetherness and caring, whether it’s playing games or simply sharing family time. Activities that include contact with caring adults are the best antidotes to images of violence.

Setting Limits

Limits allow children to feel safe, secure, protected and loved. They let your child know how to behave and what is expected of them. Children will naturally test the limits we set, but as parents, we have to remain firm and follow through when needed. When we’re unclear – or fail to follow through – children will feel confused and act out because they lack a guide for their behavior. It’s so important to set limits for our children – and hold firm to them.

Children and Television Violence

While television can be a tool for learning and an outlet for fun, some programs also can affect children negatively. Youth who see violence on television may become less sensitive to others, be more fearful of the world or act more aggressively. View at least one episode of the shows your child watches. Share your ideas and values about their programs as you sit together. If there is violence, discuss alternative ways to solve problems. Depending on their age, restrict viewing to educational shows or those that promote friendship. By taking an interest in your child’s television viewing, you can help them understand the world in a more healthy and realistic manner.

Supporting Someone Through a Loss

Naturally, we want to offer support, especially in the days following a loss. But, we need to remember that the grieving process can take a very long time, and differ from person to person. Those who are grieving need support over time and our respect for their relationship with the deceased. Encourage them to share memories and stories, focusing on the connection more than the loss. Recognize the place a loved one held in a friend’s life and you can help them redefine the relationship and move forward with healing.

Listening to Your Children about Drugs

It’s important to have regular and sincere communication with your child. Talk every day, even when schedules are busy. If chatting together is a regular pattern, it will be easier for your child to address problems, and easier for you to identify changes in mood or rough times. Let your child talk without interruption and show you are interested. Turn off the television, sit with him or her, and make eye contact. Allow your child time after school or practice to adjust and relax. Let them know you respect their feelings. With a closer relationship, children will be less likely to experiment with alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs.

Alcohol and Pregnancy

Drinking alcohol can be harmful to your physical health and relationships. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it also can hurt your baby. Alcohol can hurt an infant’s development, even in the first few weeks of pregnancy. During pregnancy, any amount of alcohol is unsafe for your child. The problems caused by alcohol may be permanent, including low birth weight and retardation. If you are pregnant, or planning to be, and still drinking, stopping now can help your baby's health and future. If you find it difficult to go without alcohol, find a support group or contact a substance abuse professional. A pregnancy without alcohol can be one of the most important parenting decisions you’ll ever make.

Treating Eating Disorders

Anorexia and bulimia are common problems for adolescent girls, and a growing number of adolescent boys. Those with anorexia view themselves as overweight and restrict their eating, even when dangerously thin. For people with bulimia, binge eating and purging occur. In addition to effecting a person’s food consumption, eating disorders impact one’s self image, family relationships and ability to function. Fortunately, most people respond well to treatment, which includes therapy and nutritional assistance. If you notice changes in a person’s diet, weight or esteem, take it seriously. Encourage them to seek support, giving them access to a healthier future.

Helping Those with Eating Disorders

If someone you know has an eating disorder, the signs often are obvious. What can be more challenging is how to respond in a compassionate and appropriate way. If they are not receiving treatment, support them in seeking it. Try not to regulate what the person eats, since those with eating disorders struggle with control issues. Anorexia and bulimia convince people that life is about merely food and weight, making life small. As a friend or parent, help them see other avenues. Visit friends. Travel. Play tennis. Start a book club. By helping them expand their possibilities, you’ll be supporting their health.

Children of Alcoholics

When children grow up with a parent who abuses substances, they can develop problems that follow them into adulthood. They’re at greater risk for depression and anxiety and often they lack the skills that lead to success and fulfillment. They’re more likely than other children to develop substance abuse problems themselves. By listening and talking, a caring adult can help a child learn that their parent’s drug use isn’t their fault. Also, they can also remind the child that he or she  cannot cure their parent’s addiction or make it better. As a child, that is not their responsibility. They can make different, better choices for themselves about substance use, though. Adults who help a child of a parent with a  substance abuse problem offer a lifeline that can last a lifetime.

Be a Mentor

Studies have shown that resilient children—those kids who can bounce back from trauma, challenges and upsets—have positive adult relationships and strong connections to the community. One way to help a child succeed is to be a mentor. Children with mentors are more likely to be hopeful about the future, set goals for themselves, graduate from high school and enroll in college. They are also more likely to avoid risky behaviors such as using drugs or alcohol, skipping class or engaging in violence. If you’ve been thinking about becoming a mentor, now is the time. January is National Mentoring Month. For information about Sweetser’s mentoring program, please see us online at www.sweetser.org

A Child with ADHD

Children with ADHD are sometimes challenged by traditional academic subjects, which may negatively impact their self-esteem. Because ADHD effects a child’s ability to concentrate and focus, they may have to work harder than their classmates to achieve the same results. Therefore, children with ADHD sometimes feel labeled or like they do not fit in, which can negatively impact self esteem or lead to depression. Some people assume that a person with ADHD has a learning disability or is not as smart. This is not true. While this child may not perform as well in some subjects, they may excel in others. When we provide activities and learning opportunities that match a child's strengths and interests they can naturally excel and their self concept will improve.

How to Respond to an Angry Child

Keep in mind that anger and aggression are different. Anger is a temporary emotional state while aggression is often directed against a person or thing. It may be helpful for the child to express anger appropriately—we shouldn’t try to suppress it. Through our own example, we can model appropriate behavior and help children learn acceptable ways of coping with and expressing anger.

Helping a Child who is not Your Own

Often, children who need help come from families that are experiencing stress. It is nice to help in a way that supports the role of the child’s parent. Instead of blaming the parents for the child’s problem, be part of the solution. Offer to help a parent in way that lets them spend quality time with their children. For example, try bringing them a meal to share together, or suggest a constructive activity in which everyone can participate. If a family has more than one child, it might be helpful to baby-sit one child, which will give the parent a chance to spend quality one-on-one time with another. You might consider listening to the parent about the challenges of being a parent today and offering encouragement about what they are doing well.

Depression and Exercise

Depression is commonly treated with a combination of therapy with a mental health provider and medication prescribed by a doctor. However, there is more you can do for yourself. Research has shown that exercise is an effective element in treating depression. When you can combine all three, you might see even better results! By activating your brain’s natural chemicals, vigorous, regular exercise reduces the symptoms of depression, boosts self-esteem and improves sleep. Furthermore, continued regular exercise supports recovery and reduces the chances of depression returning. Because depression can be a serious condition, you should always consult a professional before deciding upon any course of treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about the benefits of exercise for your mental and emotional health.

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Missy Esty , mobile crisis in Portland, received high praise from a child's mother - "Missy was wonderful. She came in and calmed everything down, and then helped us figure out what services we needed and what the best treatment would be to help."

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