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Strategies For Coping with Uncertainty

Life can feel very uncertain these days. Young adults may feel worried about what their fall college semesters will look like, if they will be able to find a job, and if they will be able to hang out with their friends or go on a date. Feelings of fear and worry can leave young people feeling anxious and overwhelmed.

In times like these, it is good to remember that no matter how helpless or hopeless you are feeling, there are steps you can take to cope with the uncertainty of life. Here are some strategies that may help give you a sense of control and make you feel a bit more safe:

1. BREATHE

When people are anxious they tend to take rapid, shallow breaths that come directly from their chests. This type of breathing is called thoracic or chest breathing. When you’re feeling anxious, you may not even be aware you’re breathing this way but this can cause your heart to race and for you to feel dizzy. This can make you feel even more anxious and even make you feel like you are having a panic attack.

Try this simple breathing technique to help you relax:

  • Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose.
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth
  • Repeat for several minutes until you start to feel better.

Some people like to use a visual when they are doing their deep breathing. Try this one: pretend you are holding a beautiful red rose in your left hand and a pretty birthday candle in your right hand. Then inhale slowly and visualize yourself smelling the lovely fragrance of the gorgeous rose. Then exhale and slowly blow out your birthday candle. If you find that watching a video is helpful while you practice deep breathing, you can find videos like this calming breath bubble on youtube.

The best thing about using your breathing to help you to feel better is that no one has to know! You can do it standing up, waiting in line, or sitting down. The more you practice, the more natural it starts to feel.

2. EXERCISE

Physical activity improves your body’s ability to use oxygen and improves blood flow which directly affects your brain by increasing your brain’s production of endorphins. Endorphins are the “feel-good” neurotransmitters that give you a sense of well-being after exercise.

Physical activity like going for a walk or a bike ride can also help take your mind off your worries. Invite a friend to join you when you exercise and make an effort to ask them how they are doing. Helping someone else is a great way to boost your own mood!

3. ACCEPT THAT LIFE MAY ALWAYS HAVE SOME FORM OF STRESS AND LEARN COPING SKILLS LIKE PRACTICING SELF-CARE

No matter how much we may try to feel in control, the truth is that life just comes with uncertainty. Recognize the signs that you are feeling overwhelmed. Some people experience stress as physical pain such as a headache or stomach ache. Others may feel like they can’t catch their breath or that they just don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. When you realize you are feeling really anxious, try practicing self-care.

Great self-care strategies are relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation. There are quite a few online yoga classes available for you to try as well as a number of meditation apps. Challenge yourself to set aside some time each day to practice these new skills.

Establish good sleep hygiene. Taking the time to relax and unwind before bed can help you to sleep better at night.

Eat a healthy diet. Eating healthy meals can help maintain your energy levels and prevent mood swings. Avoid sugary and processed foods to give your overall mood a boost.

4. TAKE ACTION OVER THE THINGS YOU CAN CONTROL

So much of life right now feels uncertain and there are many things beyond your control. But it may help to remind yourself that you are not powerless.

For example, if you are worried about your health during this pandemic, you can take action by wearing a mask when you leave the house, frequently washing your hands, and avoiding crowded places. If you lost your job through no fault of your own, you can control how much energy you spend on a job search by updating your resume and practicing your job interviewing skills.

By focusing on what is in your control, you will worry less and use your active problem solving skills more. And it is ok to ask for help, in fact it takes strength to ask for help! Life Skills Coaches, teachers, and trusted friends can assist you with creating more certainty in your life. You can do it!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeri Rochman, JD, MS, is the Advance LA Director of Community Outreach, a Life Skills Coach, National Board Certified Counselor and Certified Parent Educator. Interested in learning more about Advance LA’s services? She can be reached at jrochman@thehelpgroup.org.

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Preparing for An Online College Fall Semester

 

While we are all adjusting to a “new normal” during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is college students who are really feeling the impact of this health crisis. While many colleges are still planning for an in-person experience, the actual day-to-day college life will likely come with modifications and restrictions. It is important that college students have realistic expectations of what the fall college experience will be like. The following are some changes that colleges may be making when they resume this fall:

Orientation Will Be Virtual:

College freshmen are likely to face a very different orientation experience. Whereas orientation used to be a time for new college students to meet their fellow classmates on campus, this fall is likely to have virtual orientations. Some examples include virtual welcomes from online student organizations and resource fairs, Q & A video sessions, zoom calls between students and faculty advisers, and lots of recorded sessions that can be watched at a later time.

It is completely understandable if virtual orientation leaves students feeling disappointed. College is something that young people may have been looking forward to for a long time. But we all hope that this is a temporary situation and eventually there will be a return to the in-person, on-campus experience that students imagined when they sent in their applications last fall.

Fall Semester May Start and End Early:

Many colleges are re-thinking their academic calendars. One popular model is to start fall classes earlier and end instruction at the Thanksgiving break. The idea is that by the virus is more likely to spread if students go home for Thanksgiving and then return to campus for a few more week until the holiday break. By limiting travel, the hope is that the risk of the virus will be limited as well.

Face Masks Will Be Mandatory, There May Be Lots Of Physical Barriers And The Dining Hall Will Look Different

Colleges will likely follow state health guidelines and require students to wear masks on campus when outside of their dorm rooms. Also, the plastic shield that is used at the grocery store cashier area will probably be installed in dining halls and in classrooms. This may be unsettling for students but again, it is all part of our new normal.

One aspect of college life that will really feel different is the dining hall. Meal times used to be a great way to hang out and make new friends. But colleges are now likely to offer grab-and-go options with disposable dishes and utensils. But students can still have a meal with a friend: they just need to find a table outside and maintain space between each other. Hopefully students will be back in the dining hall in the spring.

Classes Are On-Line

For some students, this is the most difficult aspect of attending college this fall. Taking an online class requires motivation, determination, and executive functioning skills which may be challenging for neurodivergent students. For example, students with ADHD often utilize the strategy of sitting in the front row of a classroom in order to focus and pay attention. Attending a class via Zoom from one’s bedroom requires a much higher level of filtering out distractions.

August is a good time to make the necessary preparations for a successful fall semester. Contact your college and inquire what guidelines will be in place to keep students safe. Making arrangements for a Parent, Friend or Life Coach to provide support and assistance with staying on track with assignments and projects will also allow students to achieve academic success.

The fall college experience will be unique. But preparing is the best way to handle uncertainty. Students who are flexible and maintain a positive mindset are sure to do just fine.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeri Rochman, JD, MS, is the Advance LA Director of Community Outreach, a Life Skills Coach, National Board Certified Counselor and Certified Parent Educator. Interested in learning more about Advance LA’s services? She can be reached at jrochman@thehelpgroup.org.

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4 Strategies to Help Ease Into Your New Normal

 

We are all feeling a bit uncertain about what life will look like once we “re-open.” Some of us can’t wait to return to our typical daily routine of leaving the house in the morning for work or school, and then returning home in the evening. But there are also lots of us who are dreading the end of the stay-at-home orders because, to be truthful, we really like staying at home!

Feeling anxious about “returning” is a completely normal response to change. Most people like to know what is going to happen next and established routines help us to feel safe. So it is natural to feel unsure about what life post-quarantine will look like.

But we will have to eventually venture out again. Here are four strategies that may help you ease into your new normal:

1. Go slowly! – For some people, being told to stay at home has had some unexpected benefits. You and your family may have been lucky and have not faced health challenges, so staying home has been enjoyable.. The stay-at-home orders gave us permission to not feel pressured to be socially active, to not have to face the stress of being in a classroom, or to have to engage with strangers while going about our lives.

A slow, gradual return to your pre-Covid life may help reduce the stress.If you haven’t been leaving your house at all, maybe take a walk around your neighborhood. Once you are feeling more comfortable doing so, invite a friend along for the walk. If you both are wearing masks and keeping 6 feet apart, a walk outdoors with a friend is a great first step!

2. Make a plan – Creating a plan for your mental and physical health will help you to feel more in control. Make a commitment to meet with your therapist or Life Skills Coach weekly to talk about your return to life outside of the house. Challenge yourself to eat healthy meals, exercise, and get plenty of rest.

3. Do what feels right for you – You can decide how you want to spend your time and energy. You don’t have to be busy all the time if you don’t want to! You can take a lighter academic load this fall if that will help reduce your anxiety about returning to your college campus or take a part-time job to ease back into the work world.

4. Use your healthy coping skills – There may be challenges that you may not be able to solve. But healthy coping strategies can help you to face these problems . Doing yoga, meditating, talking with your Life Skills Coach, or going for a walk with a friend are all activities that will help you to feel your best. Coping skills help you to regulate your emotions when you are feeling overwhelmed.

No one can say for sure what life in the future will look like, but it will probably take some getting used to. The main thing is to return to regular life at your own pace and be kind to yourself. Tell yourself you are doing the best you can and that is just fine!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeri Rochman, JD, MS, is the Advance LA Director of Community Outreach, a Life Skills Coach, National Board Certified Counselor and Certified Parent Educator. Interested in learning more about Advance LA’s services? She can be reached at jrochman@thehelpgroup.org.

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Fun Things To Do During Summer 2020!

 

Here are 7 ideas that may bring some sunshine to an indoor summer:

  1. Enroll in an online activity – Pick something fun like a dance class, a yoga class, a cooking class or a gaming class. This will help you put an event in your calendar and give you something to look forward to. And who knows, you may just find a new passion or hobby!
  2. Be creative! – For many people, painting is really therapeutic. You can try watercolors or acrylic paint and just experiment. Or maybe try writing in a journal every day. You might find you enjoy writing short stories, song lyrics or poetry. And you can try baking – this gives you a creative outlet with the added bonus of having something delicious to eat!
  3. Start a new project – Why not build a website for yourself? WordPress.com and wix.com are just two examples of free website builders that are easy to use. You can make a website to display your art, your new baking skills, or start a blog. The sky is the limit!
  4. Home improvement – Is your room cluttered? Or do you wish the walls of your room were a different color? This is the perfect time to clean out closets and spruce up your room!
  5. Get a jumpstart on college in the fall – Summer is a great time to practice the skills you need to have a successful fall semester. Make a schedule for yourself with times for exercise, movie watching, lunch, etc. and practice putting alerts in your phone to remind you. Take a college prep class and learn organizational strategies that will have you ready to go in the fall!
  6. Try Meditation – The app Headspace offers free meditations you can listen to anytime that are part of a larger collection called Weathering the Storm. This collection includes free meditations, sleep, and movement exercises to help you feel calmer and more relaxed.
  7. Text some friends and stream a movie together! – You can social distance and still enjoy a movie night with friends. There is a Google Chrome extension called Netflix Party which allows groups of friends to watch their favorite Netflix program at the same time. There is also a chatroom so you can share your reactions with each other.
  8. Get outside – while staying inside – Five national parks in the US have teamed up with Google Arts and Culture to bring you “The Hidden Worlds of National Parks” so people can enjoy the beauty of the natural world. You can explore different climates, different environments, see deserts and snowy terrains – all while sitting safely on your couch!

This may not be the summer you had planned for but it can still be a great summer.

Challenge yourself to be open to new ideas and to stay flexible if plans have to change.

Who knows, this could turn out to be a really memorable summer!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeri Rochman, JD, MS, is the Advance LA Director of Community Outreach, a Life Skills Coach, National Board Certified Counselor and Certified Parent Educator. Interested in learning more about Advance LA’s services? She can be reached at jrochman@thehelpgroup.org.

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How to Keep a Positive Mindset

 

Positive Mindset

With all that is going on in the world, it is important to have a Positive Mindset. This  doesn’t mean you are always smiling and laughing. Rather, it means that you are focusing on all that is good in life and maintaining an optimistic overall perspective.

A person with a Positive Mindset chooses to focus on the bright side and to approach challenges with a positive outlook.

You can teach yourself to have a Positive Mindset by making positive thinking a habit, always looking for the silver lining, and trying to make the best out of difficult situations.

A person with a Positive Mindset strives to have these 5 characteristics:

  1. Optimism: An optimistic person makes an effort with the assumption that his or her efforts will pay off.
  2. Acceptance:  This means you can acknowledge that things in life don’t always turn out how you want them to but you can learn, and grow, from your mistakes.
  3. Resilience: A resilient person bounces back from disappointment and doesn’t give up.
  4. Gratitude: This means that you actively appreciate all the good things in your life.
  5. Integrity: This means you are honest and trustworthy.

Practice the following behaviors to develop your Positive Mindset:

  1. Smile!
  2. Give someone a compliment.
  3. Tell someone that they did a great job!
  4. Try not to complain – instead do something to fix the problem!
  5. Do not let other people’s negativity bring you down.
  6. Give of yourself, volunteer!
  7. Be compassionate with yourself, remind yourself that you are doing your best.
  8. Be true to yourself…. Always.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeri Rochman, JD, MS, is the Advance LA Director of Community Outreach, a Life Skills Coach, National Board Certified Counselor and Certified Parent Educator. Interested in learning more about Advance LA’s services? She can be reached at jrochman@thehelpgroup.org.

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The 4 A’s: Dealing With Stressful Situations

 

Life can be really stressful! And if you are starting something new like a spring college semester or a new job, it can feel really overwhelming as you juggle responsibilities and trying to manage your time.

A good strategy for managing stress is using the 4 A’s: AVOID unnecessary stress, ALTER the stressful situations, ADAPT to the stressor and ACCEPT the things you can’t change.

AVOID Unnecessary Stress

Not all stress can be avoided and, actually, it really isn’t healthy to avoid the situations in your life that cause you stress. But, you may be surprised by the number of stressors in your life that you can eliminate.

  • Learn how to say “no” – know your limits and stick to them. Whether it’s your personal, academic or work life, don’t take on more than you can handle.
  • Avoid the people who stress you out! Hang out with friends that help you have fun!
  • Narrow down your to-do list: Analyze your schedule, responsibilities, and daily tasks. If you feel like you have too much on your plate, figure out the things you “should” do as compared to what you “must” do. Then push the “shoulds” to the bottom of the list and get started on the “musts.” And don’t get too stressed if your “shoulds” don’t get done until the next day.

ALTER The Stressful Situation

If you cannot avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it. Figure out what you can do to change things so the problem or stressor doesn’t present itself in the future.

  • Express your feelings when you feel stressed, overwhelmed or frustrated. This applies to parents, siblings, friends, roommates or co-workers. If something is bothering you, communicating your concerns in an open and respectful manner can help the situation.
  • Be willing to compromise. When you ask someone to change their behavior, be willing to do the same. If you are both willing to bend at least a little, you will have a good chance of finding a happy middle ground.
  • Manage your time well. Plan ahead and make sure not to overextend yourself, especially if it’s your first semester at college or your first few weeks at a new job.

ADAPT To The Stressor

If you can’t change the stressor, try and change your reaction. You can adapt to stressful situations and regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude.

  • Try to view the stressful situation from a more positive perspective – aim to try to think of it as a learning opportunity for future stressful situations.
  • Look at the big picture, and try to put the stressful situation into perspective. Ask yourself how important it will be in the long run? Will it matter in a month? A year? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere!
  • Focus on the positive – staying optimistic in stressful situations makes them a whole lot easier to get through!

ACCEPT The Things You Can’t Change

Some sources of stress are simply unavoidable.

  • Don’t try and control the uncontrollable. Many things in life are beyond our control, particularly the behaviors of others. Rather than stressing out over them, focus on what you can control such as the way you choose to react to them.
  • Look for the upside – new experiences like college or a new job are just one big learning experience. Take advantage of the chance to learn something new even if it does come with a little bit of stress now and then!

When you are feeling stressed, sometimes just talking to someone in itself can be helpful. Talking with a parent, friend, trusted adult, or Life Coach when you are feeling overwhelmed is a great strategy for clearing your mind and helping you to feel more centered.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeri Rochman, JD, MS, is the Advance LA Director of Community Outreach, a Life Skills Coach, National Board Certified Counselor and Certified Parent Educator. Interested in learning more about Advance LA’s services? She can be reached at jrochman@thehelpgroup.org.

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10 Ways to Celebrate Yourself

 

This year, why not choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to love and take care of yourself! You are deserving of all the good in the world so make 2020 the year where you practice self-care and honor yourself.

Try these 10 ways to celebrate how wonderful you are on Valentine’s Day or any day:

  1. Write yourself an affirmation letter. Write down the things that you really like about yourself – it could be your beautiful curly hair, your excellent gaming skills or your kind heart. Make it a point to re-read your letter often. Positive self-talk is a great strategy for creating and maintaining a positive outlook on life!
  2. Find an interesting place near your home that you haven’t explored before and see it on your own terms. Get outside and explore the world. Seize the day!
  3. Bake something sweet for yourself! Try a new chocolate chip cookie recipe or decadent brownies. Sweets for the sweet – you!
  4. See the movie that you really want to see. Going to see a movie alone may feel strange at first but it is also really liberating! It feels good to not have to share the popcorn!
  5. Take a walk – with yourself. Cue up your favorite playlist or try a new podcast. Walking is good for your mind and body. Take in the scenery and enjoy the fresh air!
  6. Share your love! Spend an hour at your local animal shelter and feel all the love from the animals who are so happy to see you!
  7. Do a random act of kindness. Brighten up a neighbor’s day by bringing them flowers or maybe bring them a plate of the cookies you made!
  8. Take good care of yourself. Make an appointment for your yearly physical or your annual dental visit. While maybe not super fun, taking good care of your health is the ultimate act of self-care. Choose to take care of yourself with the same love and compassion, in the same manner, you would take care of a new puppy. You deserve it!
  9. Treat yourself to something delicious to eat! You can choose to eat something really healthy or a giant Reese’s peanut butter cup. Enjoy, this is your day!
  10. Tell someone you love them. Let your mom, dad, grandparents, or someone special in your life that you love and appreciate them. We all need to know we are loved!

Have a happy 14th! You’ve got the best Valentine around – you!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeri Rochman, JD, MS, is the Advance LA Director of Community Outreach, a Life Skills Coach, National Board Certified Counselor and Certified Parent Educator. Interested in learning more about Advance LA’s services? She can be reached at jrochman@thehelpgroup.org.

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Tips on How to Draw Your Future

As we all know, January is the traditional time to make a list of resolutions to improve our behavior.

But for those of us with executive functioning challenges, it is also a time to be kind to ourselves about any incomplete resolutions from the previous year and start out with a clean slate.

A lot of us have the best intentions of working our way through a written list of resolutions but maybe there is a better way?

This year, why not try something new and draw your future. Yes, draw your life’s dreams, desires, and goals.

A visual representation of your dreams and goals is known as a Vision Board. Creating a New Year’s resolution vision board is a powerful way to visualize all of the things you want to do, be, and have in your life. It also serves as a daily reminder of your goals and is a great way to hold yourself accountable.

So pick a day in January to make a date with yourself. Sit down with a soothing hot beverage and a favorite snack, as well as a large piece of paper and pencils or markers. First, draw yourself in the middle of the paper. Next, take time to dream about what you would like to have happened in the coming year.

Then, draw your future! Draw the home you would like to live in, and draw yourself working or studying in the field that you would like to be in. Draw yourself doing an activity you would like to try, or a new food you think will taste good, or a new city you would like to visit.

There is something perhaps a bit magical about putting your future dreams down on paper where you can see them. Somehow it makes them feel real and feel possible.

Once you complete your vision board, make sure to post in a place where you will see it often and where it will inspire you to action. Share your vision board with a parent, trusted friend, or Life Coach and ask for support to help you make your visions a reality!

And from all of us at Advance LA, we wish for you a New Year filled with health, prosperity and joyful action.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeri Rochman, JD, MS, is the Advance LA Director of Community Outreach, a Life Skills Coach, National Board Certified Counselor and Certified Parent Educator. Interested in learning more about Advance LA’s services? She can be reached at jrochman@thehelpgroup.org.

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3 Tips for Managing the Holidays

For some of us, the holiday season can be a minefield of social expectations. There is a lot of pressure placed on everyone during the holidays to spend time with family and friends. But those types of interaction require a social proficiency that can be difficult for young adults with challenges. Young adults who struggle socially may need to plan ahead to take frequent time-outs as a strategy for successfully enjoying the holidays.

Here are tips that may be helpful:

1) If you have trouble socializing, it is perfectly fine to give yourself permission to take some time to be by yourself. Although we are constantly bombarded with media images of families and friends spending huge amounts of time together, many of us need time alone to center ourselves. This is important because behaving in a manner that is not true to your authentic self is a recipe for unhappiness.

If socializing is stressful for you, then a good strategy is to spend small amounts of time interacting with others. For example, you can enjoy a holiday dinner with your family, and then excuse yourself to take some time alone. If you feel up to it, you can rejoin your family for dessert.

2) If you are someone who loves consistency, the chaos of the holidays and loss of routines can be really stressful. Routines create a feeling of calm and safety, as well as reduce the number of decisions that we have to make. But holiday festivities often disrupt the normal flow of a day or week. So try to keep to your regular routine as much as possible and only schedule a holiday event once a week. There is no “right” way to celebrate the season. Do what works for you!

3) Use your coping skills during stressful times. Remind yourself that it takes true strength to ask for assistance. Reach out to a trusted person in your life such as a parent, good friend, or Life Coach. Let them know you could use support for dealing with holiday stress.

If you are at a party and begin to feel overwhelmed, step outside and take deep breaths until you feel calmer. And try to find time to exercise. Sometimes a walk around the block is enough to allow you to feel centered and ready to re-engage.

With some preparation and planning, you will be able to carry on during the holidays and perhaps even find yourself enjoying them!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeri Rochman, JD, MS, is the Advance LA Director of Community Outreach, a Life Skills Coach, National Board Certified Counselor and Certified Parent Educator. Interested in learning more about Advance LA’s services? She can be reached at jrochman@thehelpgroup.org.

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4 Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress

November brings the start of holiday fun and excitement! But despite the joys of the season, many people find themselves feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by the holiday season’s extra activities, social and familial demands, and general stress.

Most of us try to load up our already busy schedules while worrying about attending to our normal duties. With all of these higher expectations on us, it is easy to feel robbed of what should be a holiday season filled with joy, love, and wonder. So what to do?

Here are some strategies for decreasing feelings of holiday stress and increasing your enjoyment of the holiday season:

1. Practice Planning And Organizational Skills:

  • Create a to-do list: The phrase, “ink it when you think it” is a great motto. Write down the thoughts that are causing you stress so you can review them at a later time when you are feeling calm. Keep a pen and pad of paper nearby!
  • Check your to-do list at the beginning of each day. Arrange items in the order of priority. This will give a sense of control over your day and also keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

2. Create Reminders To Help You Stay On-task With Your Calendar

  • Write important dates on a calendar that you frequently check.
  • Make a daily schedule. This helps you plan your day.
  • Make post-it note reminders and put them up near your bathroom mirror or front door.
  • Alarms (alarm clock or phone/computer alarm) can be helpful to jog your memory.

3. Create A Plan of Attack To Use Every Time You Need To Complete A Big Task Such As Making Plane Reservations or Party Planning:

  • Figure out what you need to do.
  • Plan how and when you will do it
  • Figure out how much time is needed to complete the task
  • Treat yourself when you finish the task!

3. Know Your Productivity Cycle

  • It’s important to pay attention to your own productivity cycle.
  • Ask yourself ‘What’s my most productive time of the day?’ Then, schedule that time of day for working on your most important tasks or activities.

Above all, remind yourself to practice self-care! Schedule in down-time in your schedule so that you have time to relax and unwind.

And if you do feel that your level of stress is draining away the fun of the holidays, reach out to a trusted friend, family member or life coach. Talking with someone is a great way to relieve anxiety and stress. And remember, it takes strength to ask for help when you need it.

Best wishes for a happy holiday season from everyone at Advance LA!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeri Rochman, JD, MS, is the Advance LA Director of Community Outreach, a Life Skills Coach, National Board Certified Counselor and Certified Parent Educator. Interested in learning more about Advance LA’s services? She can be reached at jrochman@thehelpgroup.org.