Handling Summer Overload

Congratulations parents!  You have made it through another school year.  Summer is here and it is time to relax…..or is it?

Summer camps, sleepovers, pool time, staying up late, sweet treats.  While summer is supposed to be a time of leisure days, it can also be a time of stress for some families.

Kids can get overloaded from doing fun things just as much as they can get overloaded from too much work and activities during the school year.  Not only can does ice cream melt on hot day days but children can melt down as well!

Here are some ideas on how to keep kids and parents from avoiding the meltdown and creating a summer of fun.

1. Keep bedtime on a regular schedule-most of the time. Kids need lots of sleep to function.  You know how it feels when you are sleep deprived. Kids fare worse. Certainly there will be nights you have fun things planned so try to get them back on schedule as soon as possible.

2. Plan fun time and downtime. Kids need time to unwind. If you have a really busy day, plan a little less the next. If you are on vacation, plan some quiet time allowing for kids to rest and rejuvenate.

3. Transitions for some children are really tough. If this is the case, it may good to make a loose schedule for your child, meaning keeping a morning routine and a bedtime routine when possible. Some children benefit from having it written out or pictures to represent what is happening that day.

4. Eat well. Summer time can create a time for sweets overload. Ice cream, popsicles, candy, chips, cookies, you name it. Be mindful of what your children are eating throughout the day and balance it with healthy options.

5. Remember, parenting needs to be kid focused. I know we have get togethers with our friends where we want to stay up late and enjoy “our” time. This is all good but be mindful of what your children are needing.

6. Take some adult time. We end up being better parents when we take some time away to connect with other adults.

May time move slow in the moments I want to hold onto.

Help! My Teen Snuck Out!


“Good night Mom!  Good night Dad!”  Off their kind, loving, moody 16 year old daughter heads to bed with her few girlfriends sleeping over for the night.

“I am glad they are being so responsible going to bed early on a Saturday,” Dad says.

“Hmmm, “ says mom suspiciously.  “Eleven O’Clock seems awfully early for a night with the girls.”

One A.M. rolls around and mom sneaks a peak.  Sure enough that kind, loving moody, 16 year old daughter can add sneaky and in trouble to the words to best describe her.

So what do you do?  Do you wait it out?  Do you call everyone you know in town?  Call the police?  There are some tough decisions to be had.

Whatever approach you decide, it is important to be clear on your limits and expectations.  If this is the first time it has occurred, it would also be important to lay down some law.  Letting your child know beforehand what the consequences are and the need to contact other parents may be deterrent to it happening in the first place.

To let your teen get away with this behavior is to set the standard for it to happen again.  A rule that isn’t followed through with isn’t a rule at all.

I would encourage a dialogue with your child around what your expectations are and what they feel the consequences should be for their actions.  If you feel the consequences they name are not enough, then you certainly have the right to put in your two cents.  I have often found kids are harder on themselves than their parents when implementing punishments.

I would also encourage you to follow up with the parents of the other children.  If something were to happen on your watch that has a later outcome, it could be detrimental in a variety of ways.

Being a parent is tough and requires tough love at times.  When it comes to safety, rules and consequences should not be compromised.

Giving Children Our Best

baby feet body wrapped in white blanketI would like to take the guilt and shame mother’s feel by publicly announcing that most mother’s love when their children go to bed….and it’s OK.

I would also like to take the guilt and shame mother’s feel about not wanting to spend 24 hours a day with their kids providing them with fun, educational activities.

It is OK to want to spend some time alone. Just for you. I give you permission.

The time at night gives us the opportunity to recharge in whatever way we feel. No one yelling out “MOM” for the one hundredth time that day. No one asking us for something, from a cup of milk to a ride to a friends to $20. No one trying to get our attention.

Just time for you. Even if you weren’t at your best that day on the mom scale, you earned it. To be on duty all day, everyday is a lot to ask of ourselves. Just do your best to do better tomorrow. The time at night restores the strength in you to fuel up for another day.

So do what feels good. Take a bath, read a book, watch some TV, drink a cup of tea or wine, call a friend, go the gym, go out, put on your jammies, write, paint, play music, go to sleep….you get the picture.

When we care for ourselves we are then able to offer the best of us. Isn’t that what we want to give our children?

Are Kids Becoming Immune to Violence?

We are one of the few adult couples in the theater and ready to embrace yet another cultural phenomenon, The Hunger Games.

Photo By Rebecca Pollard

“Am I too old for this film?” I think looking around at the sprawled, giggling, Facebooking teens surrounding us. Too late. It grows dark, and I am instantly engrossed in the film.

The story line and design are amazing, and I find myself rooting for the heroine.  But as the film rages on and becomes more graphic with violence, I wonder about all those teens watching.

How are they being impacted? Later, I realized they probably were not as impacted as me. Youth are exposed to constant violence based on their regular exposure to video games, music videos, TV shows, and even the news. It would seem youth are almost immune to it.

On the other hand, I challenge those who believe children are not being impacted by this violence. I am not saying a child who watches a violent show is going to hurt someone else, but research shows that images we see do impact the psyche and brain development.

I have seen many children coming to therapy with problems of nightmares, and after exploring what they are playing and watching, violence is often present.  When eliminated, children can have improved sleep. I would encourage all parents to be mindful of what their children are watching, playing, and listening to.

It is up to parents to decide what is age appropriate and take a stand for those things impacting their children in a negative way. It can feel awkward for parents to take away things they once allowed their children to do and see. I challenge parents to explore the many wonderful forms of media not involving violence and introduce children to more peaceful forms of entertainment.

I know parents’ reach with teens is only so far, and I would encourage parents of teens to talk about what they are being exposed to and keep teens grounded in reality through discussing how to problem solve and enjoy life without violence.

Reason for Concern: Teen Depression and Suicide

Photo By Kara Allyson

Remember when your child used to want to be with you.  When holding hands and giving a hug anywhere, any time was just what they wanted and allowed you to do.  And then one day, they grew up.  For many parents, a real shift begins to happen in junior high and then high school hits and parents feel more lost and unable to connect with their child than ever before.  Parents can feel defeated and scared about asking to be let into their teen’s world.  And let’s face it, teens are not so willing to let parents in.

Adolescence is a time of individuating, meaning beginning to separate from primary caretakers and becoming their “own” person.  It is something that all teens go through at some point.  It is healthy.  It allows teens to develop a sense of how to be in the world, as they move towards becoming an independent being.  While it is a necessary task of healthy development, it can be a nightmare for parents.  Individuating can involve limit testing, rule breaking, experimentation, and outright defiance.  This is often not a fun, hand holding time for parents!

While the individuation process with some defiance and risk taking are normal, what is of concern and should not be put aside are certain red flag behaviors your adolescent may be exhibiting.

1. Cutting– Some kids engage in cutting on their bodies to release pain and experience a euphoric feeling.  Cutting can be dangerous and can escalate to further extreme behaviors.  Kids can learn to use other coping skills to deal with their pain and have joy in their lives.

2. Suicide– If your child has talked about or has engaged in a suicide attempt, this is a serious matter that would best be addressed with a professional.  Kids may even make veiled comments like, “I wish I were dead.”  Addressing these comments are important and show teens they are being heard.  There are many risk factors that are identifiers to people committing suicide and past attempts and/or suicidal thoughts are risk factors.

3. Alcohol and Drug Use– Drug and alcohol use seem to be a part of the teen culture but using in excess and with regularity are risk factors for developing further problems and engaging in risky behaviors.  Also, substances are often used to cope with feelings of depression.  This is called “self-medicating” and is a reason for concern.  Self-medicating can increase a child’s risk of suicide.

4. Depression– An adolescent who is depressed and does not get help and support for their symptoms may begin to spiral downward and get deeper into the depression.  This can have serious consequences if not treated.

So how do your help your teen? 

1. Let your child know how much you love and care for them.  Let them know your door is always open to them, without judgment.

2. Take a drive.  Kids tend to talk in the car.  There is something about not having to face you eye to eye that can make it feel safe to share.

3. Listen.  Parents want to fix things for their child, which can get in the way of listening to what the child has to say.  You can then ask them if they want some feedback or what they are needing to make things feel better.

4. Get professional help.  Teens need support from a healthy adult who can give them feedback, guidance, and support.  Remember a part of individuating is separating from their primary caretakers.  It can be hard to give another adult some power in your child’s life, but if you remember the professional is really there to help your child be successful and work through their problems, then surrendering some of this power can be a positive step for your child.



Sierra Dator Therapist Anxiety Depression Youth Adults Family

Feeling overwhelmed by depression, anxiety, and/or changes in you or your loved one’s life?  Looking for support for yourself, your child, teen, or family?  Breathe a sigh of relief.  You may be in the right place.

I provide therapy for individuals and families specializing in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and life transitions in my lovely office located in Petaluma, California.  Online therapy sessions are also an option for residents of California.  Overall my work centers around what my patients are wanting in their own lives and unearthing the resources within themselves to make it happen.

I also am the founder and facilitator of Wise Girl Workshops, a social-emotional program for girls in 4th-10th grades focused on making wise decisions, increasing self-esteem and confidence, developing healthy coping skills, and decreasing anxiety.  This program is not group therapy and is instead a forum for girls to come together and develop skills to help them along their way.

What makes me different than other therapists and facilitators is simply who I am.  My sense of humor, compassion, skill set, and love for what I do and those I have the honor to work with is unique to me just as you are unique to you.  I believe the relationship is everything and together we create something unique to us.  Something that cannot be replicated no matter who walks in my door.

If you are looking for an experienced therapist or facilitator, please feel free to contact me and see how I may be of help.

I offer daytime and evening appointments.   I can be reached at 707-478-4351 or send me an email at sierra@sierradator.com. I look forward to speaking with you!

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