Dr. Allison Lobel

Dr. Allison Lobel

Thursday, 30 April 2020 08:42

Making It To The Other Side - Part 7

Grief in all its Forms

Hello families of Wellington Counseling Group

No matter the content of a story these days, grief and loss are themes that seem to easily slip into the narratives of storytellers. Whether it’s a news anchor sharing the tally of the literal loss of life, or a concerned neighbor talking about being laid off, grief has a gripping presence. Grief is tangible as high school seniors process the realization and disappointment that is understandably intensified by the many missed milestones and rites of passage that have quickly slipped away from them. Capstone moments such Prom, graduation ceremonies, and even completing one’s last final exam of high school, can no longer be experienced as traditionally imagined. Grief also comes in Kindergarten-sized too, whether it’s the loss of playtime with peers, tackling literacy challenges with teachers, or even just having enough people around you to sit together in a circle (some things just don’t work virtually). Regardless of age or reason, a child or teen’s disappointment and grief are indisputably real and felt deeply, even if voice cannot yet be fully given to the experience. Though as parents we can’t control the present circumstances, we can undeniably make an impact by how we respond.

~Show up for the all the feelings
Without a doubt, it’s easier – and oftentimes more comfortable – to be present for kids when they are calm, regulated and happy. But it doesn’t take more than a few moments of parenthood to realize that young kids and teenagers have a vast emotional range. It is critical to show up for all the moments, not just the pleasant, predictable ones. Be available to listen to your children express their grief, anger, fear, etc. and give yourself permission to listen without offering any solutions. Seriously, just listen. Your presence and support in this way will be experienced deeply and can give all of you the opportunity to sit with the big feelings and connect around a very real, shared sense of grief and loss.

~Pay attention to sneaky feelings too
More time at home probably means more screen time in all its forms, and with that may come more isolation and disconnection from family. This is particularly important for teens who typically can manage their virtual schoolwork independently and are thus drawn away from the rest of the family for hours upon hours. Make it a habit to check in on teens regularly and maintain daily expectations for your child to exist outside of their bedrooms (and away from a screen). Complaints of being tired, bored or unmotivated might be masking other feelings that warrant more time together, deeper listening, and repeated opportunities to connect.

~Focus on why rather than when
After weeks at home, the weariness of restricted living has certainly set in and kids are understandably questioning when life can resume as normal. Though it’s tempting to offer a date, the reality is that it’s impossible to know. The message behind why we are staying home is just as important now as it was back in March. Continue engaging children in a dialogue about the very important role that every single person plays by staying home. Activating a sense of purpose in children can lead to a less abstract understanding and appreciation about why our daily experiences and environment have been limited, and why their continued role is ever valuable for the health of their community and their fellow human being.

Take good care of yourselves and loved ones. We will continue seeing you online until we can see you again at the office!
Allison Lobel, Psy.D.
Director of Child & Adolescent Services
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Three great activities to keep kids engaged

1) Use this free workbook to help kids get in touch with their thoughts and feelings about coronavirus. Geared for children 10 and under, the prompts in the workbook can certainly be modified to facilitate meaningful conversations with older children.

Get Your Free Workbook Here

2) Mother’s Day is just around the corner, so it’s a great time to have kids start making cards for the special ladies in their lives. With good reason to avoid shopping for Hallmark cards this year, have kids scavenge for various materials around the house to transform into creative uses. Think extra buttons, random tissue paper from shoe boxes, and plastic bottle caps.

3) Make an individual or family-based time capsule. I know, we all have a similar opinion of 2020 so far but giving kids the challenge to create a time capsule will offer a much-needed opportunity to consider this year beyond the coronavirus. Sure, the contents might encapsulate some of these last few months, but encourage children to look beyond that. Consider hobbies, favorite sports teams, recipes, photos that reflect your child or family at the current period. When life has progressed and we are well past the rebuilding and recovery phase of the pandemic, reflecting on the contents of the capsule might even spark some joy and reflections on one’s coping and resilience capacity.

Wednesday, 22 April 2020 08:58

Making It To The Other Side - Part 5

Rollercoaster or Marathon?

Hello families of Wellington Counseling Group

During a recent Zoom call with friends, one parent surveyed the bunch to ask, “So, who in your family has been having the most meltdowns through all this?” It was such a relatable question, and one that elicited a range of responses, including “everyone in the family,” a specific child, or in some cases one or both parents. Though family dynamics vary from one household to another, the heightened and unyielding nature of stress these days is very apparent. Some days it may feel like a game of hot-potato, with family members passing a proverbial ball of stress to each other, quick to deposit it to the nearest person before the music stops (Or maybe that’s just my family???). Other days it may feel calm, with hints of joy, gratitude, and confidence lingering in the background. Though it can certainly feel like a roller coaster without seeing what emotional climate is around the next bend, it’s all so very normal during this extremely uncertain and stressful time. While we can’t re-engineer the roller coaster we’re on mid-ride, we can absolutely influence how we navigate this ride and the overall experience of stress within our families.

~Focus on family dynamics

Without a doubt, parents are expected to take care of so many things for and alongside their children right now. The increased demands inevitably lead to more frustration and stress, and very likely more yelling and tension within the home. When emotions are high in one or all family members, little from the to-do list is going to get accomplished, and certainly not when it comes to distance learning. As parents, the most important task we should be focusing on is the emotional health of ourselves and our children. When calm and positive interactions are maintained, we can all approach challenges with a more agreeable disposition, flexible attitude, and the necessary patience to respond to emotional ups and downs.

~Give permission to take a break

The path to emotional calm at home may not always be the path you intended to tread at the beginning of the day. In fact, it may exist within the much-needed moments of deciding to take a different path altogether. For example, if distance learning isn’t going so smoothly today – be it from technology issues or actual resistance from your child – consider taking a break rather than getting in a power struggle with the software or your child. Use those moments to take a break from each other or reconnect by doing something fun. Revisiting school obligations at a later time will be much more successful when emotions and attention are better regulated, both things that come from deeper experiences of interpersonal connections. Making it to the other side of this public health crisis will not be measured by our children’s academic success or how many closets we’ve cleaned in the short-term. Rather, children feeling safe and loved at home through this very stressful time can create a foundation for emotional resiliency and healthy interpersonal relatedness for years to come. Remember, you are the teacher, principal, recess monitor and parent these days so you call the shots.

~It’s okay to put yourself first sometimes

As if we didn’t already know before the shelter-in-place order, children have a lot of needs. A LOT. The laundry and constant meal prep alone is enough to fill a day’s schedule, not to mention the continued requests to play, craft and do things together. Getting through this experience is a marathon and, to run it successfully, parents need to take care of themselves, too. It’s okay to decline an invitation to play and instead take some time for yourself. It is healthy for children to see and hear their parents wanting separation – it’s good for the parent-child relationship and a valuable opportunity for kids to problem-solve around engaging their minds independent of parent collaboration. Moreover, if you are feeling particularly drained or stressed, it’s healthy to let your child know “I am feeling tired right now” or “I am going to take 30 minutes to myself to recharge.” This message and demonstration of self-care is a valuable one for kids to witness and internalize for healthy stress-management skills throughout their lives. 

Take good care of yourselves and loved ones. We will continue seeing you online until we can see you again at the office!

Allison Lobel, Psy.D.
Director of Child & Adolescent Services
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Three great activities to keep kids engaged

Make your own stress balls at home with these simple ingredients and materials:

  • Balloons
  • Paper
  • Plastic bottle
  • Flour or Cornstarch
  • Pens and crafts for decorating 

Instructions:

  1. Using paper to make a funnel, fill the plastic bottle with flour or cornstarch. Don’t worry about an exact amount, just eyeball it depending on how big you want the stress ball to be.
  2. Blow up the balloon and place over the top of the plastic bottle without letting the air out.
  3. Turn the balloon and bottle over and shake dry ingredients into the balloon.
  4. Once all in, carefully remove the balloon and slowly let the air out.
  5. Tie a knot and decorate your stress ball. Squeeze and enjoy!

Make a homemade worry box using materials found around your house. There’s no doubt that everyone in the family has some variety of worry these days and we could all use a place to name and store those worries. Have kids decorate an empty shoe or cereal box and create an opening at the top. When you or your children are feeling worried about something, write down the worry and then place it in the box. This is a helpful exercise for many reasons: a) it gives children a creative outlet to organize their worries around a purposeful activity to get worries out of their minds b) it normalizes the idea that it’s natural to have things to worry about and c) it creates an opportunity to engage kids in a dialogue about their thoughts and feelings. Also, if the worry subsides it can be quite meaningful to physically remove the worry from the box. For an alternative version of this exercise, call this a “Stress Box” that all family members contribute to or take away as needed.

Build an indoor obstacle course. Keeping kids active indoors is not always an easy feat, so finding creative ways to keep them moving and interested is often the key to success. Challenge kids with the opportunity to use materials around the house to create an obstacle course for the family. In between the obstacles are great opportunities to insert brief physical challenges, such as running in place, jumping jacks, and crab walks to keep kids moving, energy flowing, and emotions regulating. Not to mention, it kinda sounds fun!

Monday, 13 April 2020 13:51

Making It To The Other Side - Part 4

Dealing with Disappointment

Hello families of Wellington Counseling Group

Admittedly, turning the corner into week five feels more challenging than did weeks past, as disappointment about lost experiences—now and in the near future—becomes more of a reality. The sting of cancelled spring break trips for some is quite prominent as we move from room to room, rather than from pool to beach this week. But, perhaps the biggest burn to digest is learning that distance education will be the mainstay of the 2020 school year across many states and the same was confirmed for my own children’s school (disclaimer: not yet confirmed for many Chicago-area schools, including CPS). While virtual classrooms have facilitated a sense of much-needed connection and communal learning for children, it in no way replaces the in-vivo enthusiasm, curiosity, collaboration and real time social connections that naturally unfold in a classroom. But our current times necessitate homebound living for healthier communities presently and yet to come, so dealing with disappointment is part of the unfolding reality. Although our children are missing out on so many experiences today, I take heart in the idea that they will emerge from this more resilient, adaptable, and (hopefully) more appreciative of the normal parts of their routines than before. Despite my message of optimism, I do appreciate that disappointments over missed occasions and milestones can be felt quite deeply by both parents and children, alike.

 ~Lean into disappointment

Let kids have the physical and emotional space to express their feelings during this difficult time. They might need to cry, yell, be alone, want hugs, act silly and more. Some kids might be very attuned to how they are feeling and easily tell an adult what’s on their mind, while others may display emotional clues through behaviors rather than words. Whatever the form of communication, I encourage you to pay attention, ask questions, and validate how your child is feeling. Then validate again. There may even be moments when you find yourself joining in your child’s disappointment or anxiety, because, let’s be honest, who isn’t harboring worry these days. Giving your child the space and respect to really listen to how he/she is feeling without judgment, criticism or instructions on how to feel differently can be an enormously powerful emotional experience, one that could lead to increased self-awareness, communication, emotional resiliency, and a deeper parent-child relationship. And I think that’s the result we’re going for as parents, right?

~Intentional acts of kindness

The feelings of disappointment associated with the novel corona virus are universal as people across the globe have been impacted and in need of good will. Perhaps you know someone personally who has been affected by the virus or a first responder who puts their own life at risk to keep the community healthy. Or perhaps you have a friend in the hospitality industry who has been furloughed or laid off altogether and is now struggling with unimaginable financial stress. Maybe you and your children are simply touched by the endless stories of suffering, resilience, and hope that are broadcast on the news every day. No matter the scenario, think about getting activated with your kids to engage in an intentional act of kindness for the benefit of someone else; even a stranger. Acting selflessly during a time of universal challenge can serve as an intensely meaningful way to support others, while also responding to one’s own feelings of disappointment, sadness, etc. as we all work together to lessen the impact of the virus.

~Take a break from doing

I think this cartoon could be the universal image for what it’s like to parent during this time of isolation. It’s no doubt relatable and humorous, but I also think it’s an important reminder to parents that we pump the breaks on multi-tasking and slow down self-imposed expectations. Understandably, certain things need to be prioritized, but if the dishes or laundry get pushed off until tomorrow, the good news is that you won’t be having company over for a while. So, be kind to yourself and give yourself a break!

Take good care of yourselves and loved ones. We will continue seeing you online until we can see you again at the office!

Allison Lobel, Psy.D.

Director of Child & Adolescent Services

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Three great activities to keep kids engaged

  • Have your kids create a diorama using a recycled cereal box. Gather construction paper, tissue paper, clay, cotton balls, or anything you can get your hands on and challenge your kids to create a scene in the box. If you want to bring it full circle to one of my recommended activities in Volume 1, have your kids make a diorama of a city or place you planned to visit or a destination in which they express interest.
  • Create a scavenger hunt around your home. If you are naturally creative, make up your own clues, but here’s one for inspiration (Thank you, Pinterest).
  • Have your kids make signs with inspirational messages to hang in a window for people to see as they pass by. These small gestures make a big impact to observing neighbors and serve as an important reminder to kids why we continue to remain at home and practice social distancing measures. We’d love to see your children’s creativity and share on our social media feed to spread the messages of positivity and hope. Please send any correspondence to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Confidentiality will certainly be respected with all postings, but please indicate if you prefer complete anonymity too.
Monday, 13 April 2020 13:47

Making It To The Other Side - Part 3

Parenting Pop Quiz

Hello families of Wellington Counseling Group

It’s been really nice to continue to see your children’s faces over the screen and connect with so many of you throughout the past few weeks. As a parent myself, I appreciate the challenges that each day brings trying to navigate your own work schedule in tandem with distance learning assignments. Some days, just successfully downloading the correct video for kindergarten literacy feels like a huge accomplishment in my house – and that’s just 8 AM! So, I greatly appreciate the effort it takes to make your child or yourselves available for an appointment with one of us on the other end. And I know these are just the very small gestures of parenting you may be providing amongst the countless other ones throughout the day. This shift into what feels like non-stop – I repeat, Non. Stop. Parenting. was quite unexpected, kind of like the universe’s way of giving us all a very long pop quiz. I’m sure there are many beautiful parenting moments amongst some of the very understandably challenging ones. In this fourth week of homebound living, I hope you can take a step back to reflect on all the things you are doing to take care of your children. You passed this pop quiz even if you missed a day of virtual school. You passed even if your kids had too much screen time today. You passed the whole test even if you felt irritable and found yourself yelling more than usual. And you’ll pass another pop quiz with flying colors even if you make another mistake tomorrow (spoiler: you will!). To keep moving forward each day to make it to the other side you will need to take care of yourself, too. Without a doubt, the options for respite are more limited these days, but finding quiet and creative moments to engage in self-care will provide the necessary restoration to ace this pop quiz. 

~Put those kids to work

All this time at home is a great opportunity to get kids involved in housework to lighten your load. Even if your kids had weekly chores prior to the quarantine, staying home for weeks on end certainly creates more messes everywhere. Use this time at home to think about meaningful ways your children can help around the house, not necessarily to teach them a lesson, but rather to help you and lighten your to-do list. Children as young as five are fully capable of putting away their laundry, stripping their beds, sweeping, and, based on personal attestation, cleaning bathrooms. And while your kids are cleaning or organizing, think about sitting on the couch for a few minutes for a much-needed pause from doing. Will they perform flawlessly? Not on your life, but it’s a start. Keep it fun for them and take a load off for a spell. 

~Carve out personal space

Finding time to yourself every now and then – apart from bedtime – is essential and it’s okay to communicate this to your kids. You may need to be creative, but find a space in your home where you can physically close the door to exercise, chat with a friend, read, or even hide in a closet without someone calling your name.  When possible, go outside by yourself for a walk, run or bike ride. Kids may naturally ask to join you but it’s a great opportunity to talk about and model self-care while demonstrating the importance of physical boundaries.

~Connect with others outside your family

Virtual dates with friends have become popular these days, and for good reason. They give adults a chance to communicate, commiserate, and connect with others. Though it’s no match for being able to meet up in person, it’s the only way we have access to a real-time conversation while simultaneously staying safe and healthy. So, if it means putting your kids to bed a little earlier to carve out well-intended personal space, go ahead and do it. It’s good for the soul and will make you a better parent tomorrow.

Take good care of yourselves and loved ones. We will continue seeing you online until we can see you again at the office!

Allison Lobel, Psy.D.

Director of Child & Adolescent Services

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Thursday, 02 April 2020 11:06

Making It To The Other Side - Part 2

Our Mindset Matters

Hello families of Wellington Counseling Group

As we head into the second week of living homebound, I hope that you and your loved ones are all in good health and good spirits. This past week presented a huge adjustment for families in balancing working from home with childcare and for many, the steep new learning curve brought to our lives by distance education. Perhaps you learned new things about yourself and your family’s capacity to be together during challenging times. Personally, if I ever was curious about homeschooling my children, that curiosity quickly evaporated after about an hour (just kidding, more like five seconds!). While much of the daily freedoms we used to take for granted are currently restricted, it is important to remember the things that do remain within our control, and our mindset and behaviors belong at the top of the list.

Mindset Matters

~How we frame the current situation in our minds will truly influence how we feel about it and what we model to children.

Stay Connected (that’s an order)

~Find ways to stay connected with friends, family, and co-workers daily , whether through Skype, Facetime, Marco Polo, texts or an old-fashioned phone call. Parents and kids alike NEED the virtual connection for a sense of normalcy and access to friends and support networks.

Overload the self-care

~Find some way to stay active and engage in self-care whether it be through exercise, meditation, reading, playing or using the time inside to explore a new hobby. I have been amazed by the generosity of local gyms and nationwide yoga studios that are offering free, on-demand fitness programs.

Take good care of yourselves and loved ones. We will continue seeing you online until we can see you again at the office!

Allison Lobel, Psy.D.
Director of Child & Adolescent Services
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Three great free daily activities to keep kids engaged

  1. Have kids conduct a virtual interview with an older friend or relative. This pandemic is truly about thinking beyond ourselves, and interviews are a great way to learn about others and to pick up new insights while building empathy. Have your kids come up with 5-10 questions to ask a grandparent to learn more about his/her childhood, career and interests. This kind of interaction can help buoy the morale of both parties while increasing your child’s EQ (aka emotional intelligence).
  2. Show random acts of kindness to family members. To my surprise at dinner one night, my daughters set the table with these homemade, origami gift boxes. Inside each box were additional surprises, including a bracelet, stickers and handwritten messages with inspiring phrases.
  3. Create colorful murals to hang on your walls. All your kids need is paper, crayons/colored pencils and a prompt to get started, such as: an amusement park; beach scene, space scene; fancy cakes; family portrait.
Wednesday, 01 April 2020 10:20

Making It To The Other Side - Part 1

Hello families of Wellington Counseling Group

I certainly hope this message finds you and your families in good health now and in the days ahead. During these very uncertain times, I wanted to reach out and let you know that I and the rest of the Child and Adolescent team at WCG are available to answer any questions or concerns you might have. Though we do not know what specifically lies ahead in the coming weeks, the one thing that is abundantly clear is that we will all be spending A LOT of time inside with our families, unable to participate in normal aspects of our daily routine. I am sure we have all read the ubiquitous articles about what to do to stay healthy and “flatten the curve” throughout the next few weeks. Without a doubt, the social limits we are under should go far in making a significant impact on public health. But, with social distancing and isolation comes an undeniable impact on emotional well-being. I wanted to share some thoughts on how to frame our mindset, not only to survive, but to thrive as families and emerge from this stronger, more resilient, and more emotionally steady. As a parent of two children, ages 9 and 6, I am certainly riding this roller-coaster with you.

Creating structure and routines

~It might be tempting to stay in pajamas all day, but facilitating a sense of normalcy through routines will help with everyone’s adjustment. Expecting kids to adhere to regular weekday routines, such as getting dressed, brushing teeth, completing chores, and sticking to bedtime routines will help maintain an atmosphere of consistency and create predictable anchor points for the day. We will resume normal living at some point and when that happens, our sticking to household routines will have helped facilitate those smooth transitions back to school and work.

Connecting with our kids and sharing individual interests

~Focus on using the time to join in what captures your child’s interest, whether it be a board game, craft, pretend play activity, or video game; yes, I said “a video game!”. During a typical week, it’s probably challenging to carve out daily or even weekly time to put aside parenting tasks or work responsibilities to join an activity. Now I have no excuse not to learn how to play Mario Kart with my 9-year-old or “play school” with my 6-year-old. While adults’ primary focus might be on physical health issues, children can recollect on this time with fond memories of playing with parents and teaching them a new skill or two.

Flexible approach to reality

~The endless parade of cancelled beloved activities, birthday parties, family visits, and spring break trips have been a lot to digest over the past few days and likely it has elicited a range of emotions for children and parents. This pause from normalcy, though, can offer an opportunity to listen to a child’s concerns and enjoy an open dialogue about what is on his/her mind. Though not a replacement for your cancelled spring break by any means, using this time to engage in learning about the destination can be a great family activity. For example, since you may not be traveling to Mexico anymore, think about finding resources to still expose children to the culture, whether it be through making a homemade dish together or researching the ecology of the environment. If you are fortunate enough to be able to rebook in the future, your children will very likely remember what they learned during this time and make the connection when they have the opportunity to take that trip as more active participants and informed travelers of the world.

Take good care of yourselves and loved ones. Connections can still remain strong in the face of social limits so I will be popping up in your inbox from time to time.

We’ll see you online when we see you next!

Allison Lobel, Psy.D.
Director of Child & Adolescent Service
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Three great free daily activities to keep kids engaged

  • 25-day Drawing Challenge
  • 30-day Lego Challenge
  • Making one homemade card each day to send snail mail to a family or friend