Category Archives: Parenting

First Steps Toward Healthy Change

Standard
Funny Stressed Cat

Funny Stressed Cat

There is no longer any question about the horrific impact varying degrees of stress can have on our all-to-fragile human system. There are experts such as Drs. Lyle H. Miller and Alma Dell Smith, two people who have dedicated their professional lives to the measurement, analysis, and treatment of stress and stress-related ailments and complaints and many others, who can vouch for both the subtle and not so subtle impact that various forms and degrees of stress can have on those most susceptible and overtaken by stress.

In most of these cases, references are made to the emotional/psychological effects of stress and talks about anxiety and how people who are under a lot of stress, physiologically suffer negative impact on blood pressure, aches and pains (very commonly head pain), heart palpitations (leading to heart problems), and possibly even more damaging long-term effects.

World of Stress

World of Stress

And it is very clear and quite easy to understand the direct correlation between change (especially quick changes) and stress. For almost all of us, whenever things happen to cause high degrees of change in short periods of time, the level of stress experienced increases dramatically. And, this makes sense and can be exhibited by the endless supply of advice we are given by those around us to ‘slow down’ and ‘not move too quickly’ through upsetting events. We are advised to ‘count to 10’ so that our feelings of anger and hurt don’t overtake us and we lose balance with rational thought and our over-burdened emotions.

Alternate View of Stress

Alternate View of Stress

We are taught repeatedly in our life lessons that it is smart to ‘give things time’ or to ‘sleep on it’ and ‘let it simmer’ before making any major decisions that will cause a major change. Very few of us go through life without being told by those closest to us ‘don’t rock the boat’ or ‘take your time’. We humans tend to avoid major change…especially when it occurs quickly. We avoid it and advise our loved ones to do the same.

Perhaps one of the most tumultuous times in our humans lives when things change very quickly (whether we want them to or not) is during the period of time we refer to as adolescence:

* Bodies grow and develop, for some practically overnight

* Hormones that we may never knew we possessed, run rampantly through our system – causing emotions to seem like an open mine field

* Social expectations and pressures play havoc even with those with even the most sturdy and consistent of upbringings

And that is just a brief introduction to some of the landscape of the adolescent portrait.

Parent to Teen

Parent to Teen

We can start by adding a dose of understanding to our teenagers. Knowing and realizing just how ‘at risk’ children in the 13-19 age range are can be a wonderful place to start in helping them (and you as the adult who cares the most about them) restore some extremely-needed balance.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

Advertisements

The Therapeutic Alliance: The Essential Ingredient for Psychotherapy

Standard

umbrellas

 I am currently writing on the ‘therapeutic alliance’ – its relation to mindfulness, psychotherapy, understanding, and ‘being listened to…’   What follows is an interesting article that I came across that may interest some of you…

Excerpt:

Have you ever tried to change the way you do something? It could be anything — the way you hold your tennis racket, blow into a flute, meditate — you name it. If so, think about that experience. No matter how motivated you were to change, and no matter how much you knew that it would help your serve, musicality, or sense of inner peace, it can be difficult and scary to change even the smallest thing. In order to change, you have to give up your old way of doing something first and then try the new way. That means that for a while you’re in a free fall — you no longer have your old habit to rely on and you don’t yet have the new one.

The anxiety of trying to change something as complex and entrenched as how you relate to people close to you or manage stress takes the feeling to a whole new level. Yet, that’s just what you do when you enter psychotherapy. Just as you had to put yourself into the hand of your teachers and coaches, in therapy you need to gradually do just that with your therapist to help you through what can be a harrowing adventure. The foundation for therapy is called the therapeutic alliance (1, 2). When it’s there, you know that your therapist is there to help you, no matter how hard the going gets.

The therapeutic alliance might be the most important part of beginning a psychotherapy. In fact, many studies indicate that the therapeutic alliance is the best predictor of treatment outcome (3-5).

See entire article:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deborah-l-cabaniss-md/therapeutic-alliance_b_1554007.html

 

A mad world A diagnosis of mental illness is more common than ever – did psychiatrists create the problem, or just recognise it?

Standard

Unfortunate Events

When a psychiatrist meets people at a party and reveals what he or she does for a living, two responses are typical. People either say, ‘I’d better be careful what I say around you,’ and then clam up, or they say, ‘I could talk to you for hours,’ and then launch into a litany of complaints and diagnostic questions, usually about one or another family member, in-law, co-worker, or other acquaintance. It seems that people are quick to acknowledge the ubiquity of those who might benefit from a psychiatrist’s attention, while expressing a deep reluctance ever to seek it out themselves…

…While a continuous view of mental illness probably reflects underlying reality, it inevitably results in grey areas where ‘caseness’ (whether someone does or does not have a mental disorder) must be decided based on judgment calls made by experienced clinicians. In psychiatry, those calls usually depend on whether a patient’s complaints are associated with significant distress or impaired functioning. Unlike medical disorders where morbidity is often determined by physical limitations or the threat of impending death, the distress and disruption of social functioning associated with mental illness can be fairly subjective. Even those on the softer, less severe end of the mental illness spectrum can experience considerable suffering and impairment. For example, someone with mild depression might not be on the verge of suicide, but could really be struggling with work due to anxiety and poor concentration. Many people might experience sub-clinical conditions that fall short of the threshold for a mental disorder, but still might benefit from intervention.

See link for interesting article on psychiatry…and bits about the importance of psychotherapeutic intervention…

http://aeon.co/magazine/being-human/have-psychiatrists-lost-perspective-on-mental-illness/

About Integrity

Standard
Drew Barrymore - Wild Days

Drew Barrymore – Wild Days

In an interview with Playboy Magazine, actress extraordinaire, Drew Barrymore, now just a stone’s throw away from turning 40, spoke openly about her ‘wild years’ and how she has been up front with her daughter Olive, to follow in her footsteps and do as she has done.

It only makes me respect her more to hear about her crack-down approach to her daughter and how seriously she takes her role as a mother. Unlike other celebrity parents in the news lately who has been seen with their under-age child and his friends holding bottles of hard liquor while posing for the camera, in a New Year’s celebration. Comments following this event centered on how mom believed people need to lighten up and not judge others. She claimed that criticizers are just taking things way too seriously.

As most of you know, I am a foster mom, usually with at least two children in my home, almost always around the ages of pre-teen through adolescence. I really would love the opportunity to have a young lady in the house, but it seems our home got onto the ‘male’ list at the agency we are connected with and they always call us with boys. Even the two dogs, that I adore and are the loves of my life, are male.

Playboy Magazine Logo

Playboy Magazine Logo

So, hearing how firm, courageous and decisive a stand Drew Barrymore is taking by being honest with her daughter about her past, openly discussing it in her interview with Playboy, and perhaps most admirably of all, not being afraid to confront the inevitable arguments surrounding her “do as I say, not as I do,” earns nothing but admiration and respect from me.

There is absolutely NOTHING easy about maintaining structure and consistency in our expectations of our children. It may very well be one of the most difficult aspects of parenting, having to keep ourselves in check, assuring that our actions align with our words. Our children are watching. Whether they are aware of it or not, it is registering. I didn’t know this then, but I know it now. And if we are to stand any chance in keeping society from decomposing and crumbling, we need to raise children with an awareness of wrong and right (no matter if it is as unique and individual as our own fingerprint.)

Integrity

Integrity

It isn’t about naming right and wrong and judging it in others, it is about having a sense of where we stand on certain issues and caring enough to take a stand. When my father passed away, my sisters and I had not one moment’s hesitation in our agreement about one word that appears on his headstone – because it is something that exuded from every fiber of his being – and that is INTEGRITY.”

Bravo Drew Barrymore, for displaying, no matter how unpopular it may be, conviction, character and yes, INTEGRITY!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

The Pros of Structure

Standard
Parental Structure

Parental Structure

Clearly, children all need to be taught to modulate emotions, resist impulses, and plan into the future. However, it is unlikely that as concerned parents, we are aware of how these abilities are developed in our children when we provide clear, understandable, consistent structure.

The need for helping our children accomplish these abilities is indisputable. We have all seen how important it is to a child’s autonomy to be able to regulate their own limits and boundaries. And the way they learn how to achieve this is though having been provided the structure with which they can learn and continue to grow.

Even as our children develop, the need for structure is apparent. How many of us are entirely convinced that without a regular bedtime, our teenage children would end up like aliens from some unknown planet in the morning because they would have been up watching televisions or playing video games or texting their friends all through the night?

It has taken me a lot of self exploration and inner work to be able to say that I truly know my parents did the best they could raising us (I have two sisters). I used to be able to say these words and not really mean them, but I know in my heart of hearts that both my parents were only human and they truly did the best they could with what they had when it came to caring for us and raising us.

They were, however, quite remiss when it came to structure and boundary setting and teaching us these crucial life lessons. It began because they were not on the same page themselves and of course, this spilled over into the lack of consistency they demonstrated to us as well.

My father was the one who had more of an idea and plan when it came to setting and maintaining a system and rules around the house. He served in the military and it is something that he may not have understood the emotional and psychological need for, but tried to accomplish nonetheless.

Rules

Rules

My mother, God bless her soul, didn’t know the first thing about rules and regulations and how to set limits. She was sure that people, including her daughters, would not like her very much and be unhappy if she told us “no,” so that is something we did not hear very often as we grew up.

While you might think this was a good thing, in the long run, it was just the opposite. We needed to teach ourselves “no.” We needed to teach ourselves how to get moving and when to stop doing certain things. For me, this was quite a struggle growing up and there were quite a few areas in my life that I needed to work extra hard with, as I actually parented myself.

First I learned that I emotionally had to buy into the need for discipline, limits and structure. It was not an easy thing for me to learn but it wasn’t until I believed that it was something positive for me to work at, nothing changed. I had gotten quite accustomed to letting many things just go their own way and learning to regulate was tough. But worth it.

My parents loved us, but they didn’t demonstrate how important it was to do things because we had to, not just because we wanted to. Once I realized I could survive and be happy even though I had to accept certain things being a certain way, it began to come together for me.

Pretty much, everything had a price. Sometimes the price was steep, sometimes not so steep, but if I wanted particular outcomes, I had to “learn the cost” and then “pay the price” to get it to happen that way.

Setting Boundaries

Setting Boundaries

That is what structure teaches, the borders, the boundaries, the outline within which I have to color my picture. It defines things and that is critical to being successful. Without definition and recognizable boundaries, it is a free for all and nobody can survive that way for long.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

Trick or Treat – YOU Decide

Standard
Trick or Treat

Trick or Treat

According to research by the Indianapolis Sun who computed caloric values from individual candy information, the average child consumes approximately 2 pounds of candy on Halloween night, the equivalent of somewhere between 3000-7000 calories. It will effectively take a 100 pound child 44 hours to walk off the amount of sugar-induced calories consumed or 10 hours of a more physical activity such as playing soccer or basketball.

More than likely, you can personally witness the effects of their trick or treat expedition in the non-stop motion that resembles the Eveready Bunny from the time your own children get home until way past their normal bed-time.

So, what’s a health-conscious, caring parent to do? One of the best things involves more than a lesson in nutrition or calorie counting; it is one of proportion and budgeting. All it takes is reassurance and a box of little baggies. The baggies are used to portion out the candy into smaller amounts that your child can look forward to each day until the candy is used up.

candy1

With a bit of planning you can turn this into a ‘family activity that can be helpful and fun. When your child returns from Trick or Treating, you can go through their ‘stash’ with them. You section out the candy into portion-sizes that you approve of and they can select the candies they prefer for each bag. This way, your child will feel as if they still have a say and you will feel better knowing they won’t be overdosing on sweets.

You can even let them choose if they want to take the day’s baggie with them as a snack with lunch at school, or if they prefer to keep it at home for after school or dinner. The more involved in the choices your child has, the more likely they are to remain happy about the process.

And you will be teaching your child that it is important not to overdo things, even things we may feel are good. By teaching them to ration it this way, they will be able to see the benefit of making something last longer than using it up quickly and then having no more for later.

Temperance

Temperance

Once upon a time, this was known as temperance, a value that we used to see in society all the time. However, as America became more of the world’s leader and people began to live ‘the good life’ the value of temperance, doing without, slipped further and further into our past.

Maybe it’s time we think about bringing it back and Trick or Treat can provide us with a wonderful place to start.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

When Ignorance Begets Confidence

Standard

Image

“There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of either merit or sense.”  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I begin with this quote to convey the feelings evoked in a recent exchange with a neighbor, one in which surprise (and some horror) was felt during the course of the conversation.  Logic and ‘reasonableness’ had little place in the interchange. I had just been reading a short article that looked at particular German words that gave expression to complex emotional states. An excerpt is as follows: 

“Fremdschämen describes embarrassment which is experienced in response to someone else’s actions, but it is markedly different from simply being embarrassed for someone else….Fremdscham (the noun) describes the almost-horror you feel when you notice that somebody is oblivious to how embarrassing they truly are.” Further…”Fremdscham-inducing events…usually cause one to ask this question: “how on earth can these people be unaware of how stupid they are being right now?”.

I invite you to read this short article on the cognitive bias created in the Dunning Kruger effect – an effect that causes one to be unaware of their performance – and their incompetence.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolved-primate/201006/when-ignorance-begets-confidence-the-classic-dunning-kruger-effect?fb_action_ids=10202209567024712&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map=%7B%2210202209567024712%22%3A483617186047%7D&action_type_map=%7B%2210202209567024712%22%3A%22og.likes%22%7D&action_ref_map=%5B%5D

The Essence of Different

Standard
Judge

Judge

Which would you prefer hearing: “What you just did was wrong!” or “What you just did was different than the way I would have done it!”

I don’t think there is anybody who would truly prefer to hear the judgment that comes with the label of ‘wrong’ or any other word like it. Yet both comments can get the main point across which is that it may be a good idea to make some type of change.

The truth is that there is no strong value judgment imposed when we think in terms of ‘different’ as opposed to ‘right or wrong’ or ‘good or bad.’ There is a neutrality associated with the word ‘different’ that is blown to smithereens once a value judgment is imposed.

Yet so many times, people react with the value judgment. I’m human and also, I hope, a realist – at least some of the time – so I don’t think most of us can alter our knee-jerk reaction to things (in this case, the first though would include a value like ‘good’ or ‘wrong.’)

Swiss Neutrality

Swiss Neutrality

However, all that we need is a commitment to use a bit of restraint, and we can keep our ‘knee-jerk’ value judgment to ourselves, but respond aloud with the neutrality of ‘different’ instead.

When someone does something that we don’t find okay – we can feel as if it is wrong or bad, but we don’t have to say that out loud. We can say something much more neutral and non-judgmental by saying that the choice the person made was different than the one we might have made in that circumstance.

This is how it would play out in a real-life situation a parent might have. Tonight is your 12-year-old son’s night to make sure the dishes are washed. He hurriedly rushes through the motion because he wants to have time to play his video game. You are aware that the job was not done correctly and that the dishes need more of an effort in order to be done correctly.

Rather than making a judgment call or even just instructing your son to return and do the job over again, try framing it by letting him know you prefer the chore be handled differently – referring to the type of energy exerted and the finished product (the cleanliness of the dishes.) NOT a word about “RIGHT” or “WRONG” or “SHOULD HAVE” or anything else that imposes a value judgment of any kind.

Open Door

Open Door

Choosing to address a problem in this non-confrontational, non-judgmental way opens doorways to progress and change that might otherwise remain shut tight and totally unavailable to us.

So how about if just for today, we commit to using the concept of things being “DIFFERENT” if we find we don’t approve of them rather than voicing our disapproval and our opinion? I’m game if you are!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

Freud’s theoretical formulations were not rigidly fixed, but set down instead as formulations that could change…allowing more emphasis on ‘not knowing.’

Standard

Image

Review of Attachment and Psychoanalysis – published this week.  (see link below)

Attachment and Psychoanalysis
Theory, Research, and Clinical Implications
by Morris N. Eagle
Guilford Press, 2013

http://metapsychology.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=book&id=6971&cn=395

Complex States At Being

Standard

Emotions can be incredibly complex states of being/mind.

I just want to be happyPeople (particularly in this western culture) are afraid to experience emotion due to heavy amounts of socialization and conditioning, especially in school. You know, we’re taught to sit still, to be quiet, to “use our inside voices”, to line up, to avoid disorder and be orderly, to obey, to submit, to share. To share, but not to cooperate. There is a difference. Sharing does not necessarily imply or guarantee cooperation. In school, sharing is a behavioral technique; used as a means to control the behavior of a room full of pinging (that is, naturally rambunctious and curious-minded) short beings.

Let me tell you a story: a sad story about a little girl who cried.

cry, baby, cryTo get to City Island one can walk across a 2,800 foot long truss bridge, which was exactly what I was doing when I spotted a brief exchange between a little girl and her father. The little girl’s father, pushing another child in a stroller, told the little girl to look around as well as look at all the fish visible in the River below. The little girl was throwing bread over the side of the bridge to the fish, and seemed very happy.

Later, having crossed the bridge, I was sat under a pavilion and saw the little girl and her family again as they were passing by. The little girl tripped over a rise in the structure of the sidewalk and fell very hard. So hard that I winced when I heard the sound. She immediately bawled, as I’m sure that hurt her terribly. Probably terrified at the pain, you know, she ran to her father for solace. . . and he admonished her. He yelled at her as he brushed the dirt from her clothes, “You gotta watch where you’re walking. You can’t be looking around while you’re walking!” He seemed actually angry with her that she tripped, an accident on her part, no intent to spoil his day whatsoever. She only cried harder asking then for her mommy. At this, her father really became angry and shouted, “That’s it! You’re going back to the car you can’t act right!”

Did you see the contradiction?

Just moments ago, on the bridge he was telling her to LOOK around, then minutes later punished her for doing exactly that. These are the kinds of happenings that disturb me in the world. What did that do to the mind of that little girl? How could she possible understand that kind of contradicting information from such a trusted and authoritative figure as her father? What was the impact upon her consciousness? What did she just unconsciously learn? How did that affect her ego? Her sense of self in the world she knows and how will that affect her sense of self in subsequent years?

Which brings me back to emotions and the horrors some humans have undergone. That suffering. What I think not many humans grok is that suffering can be soft, horror is not always large, it can be very subtle. . . like entropy, changing and developing small vibrations over time that then result in the current personality/identity of that child in the form of an adult.

The Girl Who Cried WolfWhat happened to that little girl is a subtle terror, an event that will accompany who knows how many more and will shape her as a human being. It’s systematic, to get children all to sit still or to behave as one being so it could be easier (or more efficient) for the teacher to educate them. A good idea, sure, but in actuality what happens is that the children become standardized. The spark, the inspiration for creativity and innovation and imagination breaks down because the channels created have no room for them, no means to categorize something as unpredictable as a room full of children all having ideas simultaneously.

This is one way that fear of emotion is installed in the collective consciousness. That fear to really let go and be fully in the space. . .

“. . . and I’m free, free falling.” ~Tom Petty, ‘Free Falling’

*Image credits (used with permission through CC license)–
“I just want to be happy” by bravelittlebird
“cry, baby, cry” by Barbara Pellizzon
“The Girl Who Cried Wolf” by GaelForce Photography