Bedtime Routines and Worry


For both children and adults, good sleep is absolutely essential for navigating our day to day lives. As we all know, without adequate sleep, our ability to function in our lives is greatly impaired. Worry is often something that can get in the way of sleep for many reasons but one of them being that worry can show up most powerfully just as we are trying to get to sleep. One of the ways to combat this, especially with kids, is with a soothing bedtime routine. It is important that kids feel they have a space for their worry and for the adults around them to help them find ways for their bodies and minds to relax, so they are able to rest and sleep. Here are some ideas for creating a bedtime routine:

1) Have a routine!
It's important that bedtime be relatively predictable (without being rigid, of course). Set a general time that your child will go to bed. Check with your doctor about how many hours of sleep your child needs for their age. Create a general step by step nighttime routine, that is age appropriate, for what bedtime entails (read a story, brush teeth, turn out lights, etc.).

2) Create a “worry time”/ have a worry journal.
Often, when we lay our head on the pillow, our worries come rushing in, especially if we feel that there hasn't been time or space for them in our waking hours. Set a time to have a brief worry conversation with your child before bed or have your child keep a journal by his or her bed to write out worries before going to sleep. This helps kids to know that their worries will be attended to, so they can put them down to be able to sleep.

3) Try out some different soothing things as a part of a bedtime routine.
This is a place to get creative with your child about what can feel relaxing to start winding down before bed. This can look many different ways- an aromatherapy pillow spray, a cup of tea, a guided relaxation tape, calming music, etc. It helps to have something that cues the body that it is time to start to relax.

4) Wrap up stimulating activities in advance of going to sleep.
Things like watching TV, being on iPads/computers, and high energy play are stimulating activities. Try to wrap up these types of activities with some time before actual bedtime to help kids start to unwind. Replace this with some low energy activities and paper books, and be mindful that the books are relatively calming (Many kids like to read Harry Potter before bed- this is a pretty stimulating book!).

Feel free to reach out to me if you have questions about brainstorming ideas for bedtime routines.

The Power of Modeling


I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving break! The year is flying by here at MTS, and I can't believe we are already done with one trimester. I have really enjoyed getting to meet more of you, and I hope to get the chance to meet even more of you at upcoming parent coffees throughout the year. The first one will be next Tuesday, December 4th for parents of Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders about anxiety in young children.

Parents often ask me things like "How should I respond when my child does…? What should I say to my child about...? Of course, there are valuable thoughts, sets of guidance, and resources for these questions. The most powerful chance you have as a parent, however, to send the loudest, clearest message to your kids is what you yourself do, not what you say. I know this can be a hard message to hear because none of us is perfect or capable of modeling appropriate behavior all of the time. There is, however, opportunity in this imperfection, to model taking ownership of our mistakes and shortcomings. As you have probably heard many times, your kids are watching and learning how to navigate the world by how they see you navigate the world. There is tremendous opportunity and possibility in this. This gives you the ability to help your kids develop strong coping skills, cultivate close friendship connections where there is kindness and respect, and learn ways of taking care of themselves. Here are a few examples of how this might look:

  • Take deep breaths when you are stressed or overwhelmed, and tell your child that is what you are doing.

  • Strive to show kindness to strangers, as well as close friends and family, and handle conflict directly and respectfully.

  • When you make a misstep, talk your child through your process (in an age appropriate way). For example- "Wow, I just got frustrated and spoke in an unkind way to that cashier. That wasn't the best way of handling my emotions."

This article, Role Model the Behavior You Want to See From Your Kids, goes into more detail on this.

Also, a book I often recommend about this is called: Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help you Raise Children Who Thrive.

I would be happy to talk further with any of you about this —  feel free to reach out. Happy December!

Introversion versus Social Anxiety



In recent years, there has been an increase in acknowledgment and awareness of what it means to be an introvert, especially in a world that tends to be inherently extroverted. In general, I think this increased understanding and recognition is wonderful as roughly half of the population is comprised of people who are introverts. I have noticed, however, that with this, there are some teens and young people who can be quick to proclaim themselves introverts as an explanation for certain challenges. Introversion may in fact be the case but there may be something like social anxiety happening as well that could be causing distress and the tendency to isolate. Here are some ways to distinguish introversion from social anxiety.

Both introverts and extroverts can be very social.

A common misconception about introverts versus extroverts is that extroverts are outgoing and social and introverts are not. Many introverts can be outgoing as well but the main difference between extroverts and introverts is where people get their energy. Extroverts feel energized by interacting with others whereas introverts get their energy and are able to recharge by quality alone time. It's important to understand if that alone time is for the purpose of recharging or if it is more about isolation and avoidance. Both extroverts and introverts need connection and friendship, but it will look different for each of these types. Introverts are likely to be drawn to fewer friendships but those friendships tend to be quite deep and close whereas extroverts are likely to enjoy many friendships, some of which may exist on a more acquaintance level. The thing to be mindful of with kids and teens is if they are isolating from all types of connection and social situations.

Both introverts and extroverts can have all types of anxiety.

Introversion and extroversion tend to be core personality traits that are a part of each of us from a very young age. Anxiety, on the other hand, can come and go throughout the life span based on many factors one of which is circumstances. If you notice a drastic change in your child where social avoidance or isolation is happening, this could be the result of an increased anxiety of some kind.

Introversion is about preference. Social anxiety is driven by extreme self consciousness.

Social anxiety is characterized by high levels of self consciousness, and fear and avoidance of social situations. People who struggle with social anxiety tend to also have challenges with self esteem and their sense of self. They can be quick to imagine that others are judging or making fun of them and can believe that all eyes are on them in a hypercritical way. In contrast, pure introversion includes the ability to navigate and enjoy social situations, but with a preference for smaller group or individual interaction as well as down time alone to recharge.

If you suspect your child may be struggling with some social anxiety or with how to navigate being an introvert, let's find a time to chat and talk further. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions. A wonderful book that I recommend is "Thriving with Social Anxiety: Daily Strategies for Overcoming Anxiety and Building Self Confidence" by Hattie C. Cooper.

Managing Anxiety and Pink Elephants

Hello parents and community of MTS,

We're off to a great school year and September has flown by. This month I thought I would send out a tidbit on how to help kids with worry and self-criticism. I have often seen in the course of my work over the last few years that worry, anxiety, and negative thinking are on the rise in kids and young adults. Developmentally, this can be a critical time for establishing good coping skills in order to combat the stress and pressure this can create. It can be difficult for kids to grasp the idea that they do in fact have control over their thoughts and that they are capable of shifting their thoughts to something more positive and beneficial.

Here is a fun exercise (it includes pink elephants!) you can do with your kids to give them an experience of their ability to change their thoughts. I'd love to hear how this goes if you try it out with your kids at home and as always feel free to reach out to me with any questions or concerns.

Link to Article: Don’t Think of Pink Elephants! – The Secret to Replacing Negative Thinking With Brave Thinking

Liz Hayman
School Counselor

Introducing Liz Hayman, School Counselor

Hello parents and families,


My name is Liz Hayman, and I am thrilled to introduce myself as the new school counselor here at MTS. I'm very much looking forward to getting to know all of you and to being part of, and a support to, this community.

I wanted to share a little bit about me and my hopes and goals for this position. I am a licensed marriage and family therapist and have been working as a therapist around the Bay Area for the last nine years. I have been in many settings including hospitals, schools, and health clinics and have worked with all ages from toddlers to end-of-life care in hospice settings. I am also certified in Parent Child Interaction Therapy, which is a model that helps coach parents on how to increase positive interactions with their children. I am very passionate about supporting families in what is undoubtedly the hardest job in the world, parenting. I also run my own private practice in San Francisco seeing children, adult individuals, families, and couples.

I hope to be a proactive presence and a resource for the MTS community. To that end, I look forward to scheduling grade-level based parent meetings and providing other communication throughout the year. I can be reached by email- or by phone- 415-383-9434 extension 201, and I will be on campus all day Tuesdays, from 10-2 on Wednesdays, and 10:30-1:30 on Thursdays.

I look forward to meeting all of you and to a great year! Thank you!

Liz Hayman
School Counselor