All posts in Parenting

Guardians?

Guardians?

It is interesting what we allow into our homes and cars by way of video games, music, movies, language and more…isn’t it? Here is a question to think about during this reading: What is God not God of in your child’s life?

I watched a PG movie with my family the other night. I would not have given the movie a PG rating. More of an upper PG-13 rating.

What does “PG” mean anyway? According to the MPAA, a “PG” rating is described as:
PG — “Parental Guidance Suggested. Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children”: The Rating Board applies this rating when the members believe the film contains themes or content that parents may find inappropriate for younger children. The film can contain some profanity, violence or brief nudity, but only in relatively mild intensity. A PG film should not include drug use. (http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/question467.htm)

Oh, and check this out…
PG-13 — “Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13.” The MPAA added this rating in 1984 to denote films in which violence, profanity or sexual content is intense enough that many parents would not want to expose their younger children to the film, but not so intense as to warrant an R rating. Any movie featuring drug use will get at least a PG-13 rating. A PG-13 movie can include a single use of what the board deems a “harsher, sexually derived word,” as long as it is only used as an expletive, not in a sexual context.
(http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/question467.htm)
“PG-13” didn’t even exist until 1984! Interesting. I always thought some “PG” movies made before the 90’s were a bit off.

So Hollywood is suggesting to me from the perspective of their solid moral foundation, how to be a good parent, and how to discern whether my kids should watch something.

(It is interesting that the original rating system was developed by a Christian minister at the request of Hollywood in order to appease the masses clamoring for protection. That system has “developed’ quite differently than it’s humble beginnings.)

Hmmm.

But…what if my kids throw a fit (like most kids) that they don’t get to watch the movie, but “mom and dad” do!? My response? Parents have the responsibility to raise those children, no matter how old they are. A key verse that would support that thought is:

Mark 8:36 “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”
Now apply it to parents and their kids…
What does it profit a parent to gain their kid’s ______________ (affection? popularity? fill in the blank), but to lose their child’s soul?

Yikes. That gives me shivers! I compromise in this sphere sometimes. I don’t always choose the ugly battles because I want my kids to like me, or I want them to enjoy life with friends.

I once worked alongside a church leader who allowed their son to play very violent video games including the Grand Theft Auto series (extremely violent and morally deficient game that allows the player to commit acts of violent sex, battery, and other criminal behavior) because they wanted him to “fit in” with his friends. This is a dangerous, slippery slope, and personally, I find the mixed messages of that individual’s vocation and personal choices more than difficult to balance out. Imagine the adolescent trying to balance it out. It makes me wonder if others would look at any of my life/parenting decisions the same.

I wonder how much we willfully allow, even invite, into our home conforming to cultural norms in order to (ultimately) have a false sense of peace in our home. Can we play video games, watch movies, and enjoy a great fiction book? I believe we absolutely can, but the parameters we use to discern what is acceptable or not should be more about guarding hearts and souls than it is about what everyone else is doing.

How are you doing in your home?

Tony LaMouria, Counselor, Center for Human Development

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Effective Communication for Dealing with Conflict

Effective Communication for Dealing with Conflict

Before you begin, ask yourself why you feel upset – Are you truly angry because the ketchup was left on the counter? Or are you upset because you feel like you’re doing an uneven share of the housework and this is just one more piece of evidence? Take time to think about your own feelings before starting an argument.

 Discuss one issue at a time – “You shouldn’t be spending so much money without talking to me” can quickly turn into “You don’t care about our family.” Now you need to resolve two problems instead of one. Plus, when an argument starts to get off topic, it can easily become about everything a person has ever done wrong. We’ve all done a lot wrong, so this can be especially cumbersome.

Use “I” statements – When sharing a concern, begin your sentence with an “I” statement.  This technique will help you share your true feelings about the situation instead of spewing blame which will often cause defensiveness.

“I feel ____________ when you ____________ because ____________.”

Use reflective listening – Oftentimes we focus on getting our own point across rather than listening.  When reflecting, you will repeat back what someone has said to you, but in your own words.  This shows that you didn’t just hear the other person, but you are trying to understand them.  For example, you can say, “I think this is what you’re telling me, but correct me if I’m wrong.”

“I hear you saying that…”     

“It sounds like you feel…”    breakup-908714_1280

“You’re telling me that…”

Focus on the problem, not the person – When a disagreement turns to personal insults, raised voices, or mocking tones, the conversation is no longer productive. Be careful to focus on the problem without placing blame on the other person.  No put-downs, swearing, or name-calling.  Degrading language is an attempt to make your partner feel bad.

 Know when to take a time-out – When the conversation is becoming argumentative, insulting, aggressive, or is a repetitive pattern, it’s a clue for a time-out.  The person who called for the time-out is the person who will call for a time-in when he or she feels calm and relaxed enough to continue the conversation.  Spend some time doing something alone that you find relaxing.  Focus on how you can make this a more productive conversation.

Work toward a resolution – Disagreement is a normal part of a relationship. If it becomes clear that you and your partner will not agree, focus on a resolution instead. Attempt to find a compromise that benefits both individuals. Ask yourself if this disagreement really matters to your relationship and let yourself move on, if not.

IMG_0072_DawnDawn Schroeder is a professional counselor who enjoys helping people of all ages overcome life’s struggles.  She also has a special place in her heart for working with children and teenagers.  To learn more about Dawn, or to set up an appointment click here.

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Responding to Difficult Events

Responding to Difficult Events

Traumatic experiences are in the headlines almost daily.  It’s hard to not see it.  Unfortunately, our kids see it too, and they don’t have the same reasoning abilities that adults do to understand, or not be overly scared about the things that happen.  How do we strike a balance between letting our kids know and shielding them from the realities of our country and the world? How do we do that for ourselves?  We have many skills in managing anxiety that may help.  They are in categories of distraction, management of physical symptoms and thinking properly about the situation.

aware-1207670_1920Distraction – this is more than just turning our eyes away from something and not thinking about it.  It helps us have a manageable “bite” of what is going on.  This might come in the form of putting down your phone or turning off the TV, it might be taking a few deep breaths, or it might just be focusing your thoughts on something else for a while.  We can still think and do something about upsetting events even if we don’t constantly get the news, or are constantly talking about it.

Managing Physical Symptoms– when you feel your heart starting to pick up speed, or your breaths get more shallow, it’s time for some management.  You will need to consciously take deeper breaths and exhale deeply, as well.  This will help both your heart and your breathing.  The idea is this:  in order for your brain to function well, it needs oxygen.  It needs other things too, but it needs the oxygen that we take in to be able to clearly think.  The more oxygen you give it, the better it can perform for you.  The more deeply you breathe, the better opportunity you give your brain to think of other options, be able to access things you know and commit them to memory.

beautiful-day-1374424_1920Thinking Properly About the Situation – There are awful things that have happened all over the world, and we seem to get instant and constant information about it.  If you are a “news junkie” you might consider how long you have been watching/reading and see if you have learned anything new in the last few minutes.  If not, it’s time to give it a rest.  Repetition is only going to cement it into your memory.  Take a break, remember that you are safe in your own home and in your own location.  Take some time to think about what you have seen and maybe pray about the situation.

sadness-1325507_960_720Our kids need the same kind of help.  Each parent needs to manage the amount of content their children see, the things they are thinking about them and if there are any negative symptoms after having seen or heard about terrible things.  If your child develops nightmares or fears based on hearing about an event, then maybe they need to talk about it more with you.  They might not be ready to hear about these kinds of news events.  Remind your children that they are safe, remind them that you will always protect them, and remind them what we learned from Mr. Rogers – to always look for the helpers and see the good things that people are doing to make the situation better.

You will need to be available for your kids to answer other questions they may have.  Teenagers usually have some understanding based on what they are learning about the event from school, but may need some guidance in how to proceed or integrate what they know.  Elementary kids may need to do something to feel like they helped; like write a note, or draw a picture for one of the helpers.  Middle school students probably need a mix of both.  Again, it depends on your children, their maturity and the amount of exposure they have had to the event.  Families can use these kinds of situations as a time to come together and discuss what happened. Talk about the issues that the situation brings up that relate to what they are learning.  Is it about obeying the law?  Is it about accepting someone that is different? Is it about different beliefs that people have?  Use the events to start talking to your kids about important character development and behavioral implications of the tragedy around them.  Who knows, maybe your child is the next first responder or news anchor who will be the helpers in future situations.

 

Stephanie HamannStephanie Hamann, BS, MA, NCC, LPC – is a seasoned therapist with a particular passion for working with children and adolescents.  She has been an anchor for the Center for Human Development staff since 2004.  She reflects that “What I enjoy most about being a therapist is to see people gain new skills or understanding and move forward in life in a positive direction.”  Read more about Stephanie on her bio page, click here. 

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Psst! Hey, Mom and Dad! I’m about to tell you why I act up sometimes

Psst! Hey, Mom and Dad! I’m about to tell you why I act up sometimes

I know I look small, but I need A LOT of interaction with other people just like you do. And the most important interaction? Interaction with my parents – you. And, well, the truth of it is… negative attention is way easier to get and lasts a lot longer than positive attention does. Positive attention is usually shorter and less predictable. So, I try to get the positive every now and then but it’s hard work and it usually doesn’t pay off, so I just go for what I know I can get.

How do I interact, you ask? Good question! Through eye contact, physical touch, and talking.

If I’m desiring eye contact, physical touch, and an exchange of words…

I know I can probably get all three by acting up.

I know that I can get them for as long as I want by continuing the bad behavior.

I know that, even if you are ignoring me, I can keep getting worse and worse until eventually you have to look at me, touch me, and talk to me.

However……

If I’m desiring eye contact, physical touch, and an exchange of words…

I’m not sure if you’ll notice me quietly occupying myself over here or working hard on this project.

It almost seems like the quieter I am and the better my behavior is, the more I get ignored. I’ve heard you say, “Finally, some peace and quiet around here.” Then you look at your phone for a long time. I hate that!

Even if you say, “Good job on drawing that picture” the positive attention is over in less than 10 seconds and then I’m left trying to figure out how I’m going to get the other 29 min 50 sec of interaction that I need right now.

Mom, Dad, the good news for you is…

You are my favorite person.

I want you to teach me how you do all that cool adult stuff.

We don’t have to do anything super huge. I’d love to do almost anything with you if I can count on my Positive Interaction Bank getting filled in the process.

You can just hold my hand or rub my back for no reason. I love it when you do that.

I love your compliments more than anyone else’s.

I love your hugs and kisses more than anyone else’s.

I need you!

I adore you!

 

Love,

Your Little One

 

Corina Helgestad imageCorina Helgestad is a professional counselor who especially likes working with teen girls in such areas as self-esteem, cutting, suicide, depression, and anxiety. To learn more about Corina, or to set up an appointment click here.

 

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School is Starting

School is Starting

“School is starting!”  These words bring joy to some and strike terror into others.  I remember as a boy when my parents came to pick me up after spending some wonderful time with my grandfather at his home on a river during the month of August.  I was devastated that the time was coming to an end, and although I enjoyed school, I had no desire to go back.  Obviously, each child has his or her own reaction to the announcement; one of my grandchildren couldn’t wait and loves school; another is very apprehensive; a third sees school as a necessary evil.  In any case, the beginning of the school year brings anxiety as parents and children anticipate and experience change.

During the first days of school, there are a number of situations that confront every child.  Peers, teachers, the very classroom or school atmosphere, to say nothing of homework and educational content.  The first few days often set the stage for the year to come. Hopefully, most will hear about the excitement of having a new teacher, seeing friends, or being thrilled about a new class.  However, there are also red flags such as not being included, feeling bullied by peers or picked on by the teacher, or being exposed to class content that is overwhelming or offensive to family values.  In some instances, some learning difficulties will come to light that were not previously recognized.  For others there have been family changes that have an impact on the child at school – a move, divorce, or other loss that may make adjustment more difficult.

It is especially important to understand and be sensitive to children’s feelings and experiences during this early time of adjustment.  The old adage about “nipping it in the bud” fits here.  There are things the concerned parent can do:pencil-602440_1280

  1. It is important to be particularly sensitive to the child and their communication (both verbal and non-verbal). Celebrate the positives with them and be aware of areas of concern.
  2. If possible, listen and help your child problem solve issues that they are capable of handling. Sometimes just having a sympathetic ear is all that is needed.
  3. When the situation seems overwhelming and more than the child can handle, it is time to step in. Even though the child may not like it, often times the teacher or guidance staff at school is the place to start.
  4. Seek other advice and help when it is indicated. Parenting is difficult and it is hard to handle it alone; however, sometimes there are real medical, learning, or relationship issues that respond best to early intervention by a physician, psychologist or counselor.
  5. Ultimately, as a last resort, you may have to make hard decisions in the best interest of your child. As parents, we reluctantly changed schools for one of our children and the adjustment was immediate and positive.

As a professional therapist and supervisor, I know how important encouragement and sometimes early intervention are.  Too often, I have seen situations that could have been handled early on which develop into major problems.  It bothers me tremendously when we receive a referral in May about a problem that should have been dealt with and solved earlier. Parenting is a wonderful and daunting responsibility.  The task of raising a child from total dependence to independence brings both joys and sorrows.  Taking positive steps now will help insure more joy as you and your child journey forward.

Lee Webster imageLee Webster is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has over 40 years of counseling experience. He is also the founder and clinical director of the Center for Human Development.  To learn more about Lee click here.

 

 

 

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Childhood Anxiety

Childhood Anxiety

Is your child showing signs of anxiety such as worrying, irritability, avoidance, fear, hair pulling, nail biting, or perfectionism?

You may be thinking, “My child has a good life; how could they have anxiety?  It doesn’t make any sense!”

The truth is it doesn’t have to make sense for it to happen.

Your child’s anxiety is not the root of the problem.  It is a symptom of the problem.

So, what IS the problem?

To understand this we must first understand that both emotions and needs drive behavior.

Your child’s anxiety is a sign of a basic emotional need being unmet.

This does not mean that you are doing a bad job at parenting.  It simply means that your child has a need that they don’t know how to get met and has feelings that they haven’t figured out how to handle.

Let’s take a look at what their symptoms are saying…

My Negative Emotion Bucket is overflowing.

I’m feeling out of control, scared, angry, etc and I don’t know what to do about it.

My Positive Emotion Bucket is too empty.

I want to feel loved, safe and capable of handling my circumstances and the emotions attached to them.

How to facilitate meeting that emotional need (Balancing the Buckets)

  • Ensure that every time your child hears something negative, corrective, or scary, they hear at least 5 positive and/or empowering things.

This is not easy to do and takes purposeful effort on your part, but the payoff is well worth it.

For example:

If your child overhears you talking about money concerns, this can produce very uncertain and fearful feelings within them because they have no control over the budget, but it affects their life.

Because of their developmental stage, they may think they did something to cause the situation.  They may begin worrying about the worst-case scenario and feel incredible stress with no way to release those feelings.

The best thing you can do to counteract that is to make sure they hear at least 5 positive statements, at different times, such as; things will be okay, I love you, I’ll take care of you, you didn’t cause this situation, etc.

  • Teach your child how to recognize and vent their feelings by asking “feelings questions”.

Don’t ask, “How was school?”  They’ll probably say, “Fine.” which doesn’t get to their emotions.

Do ask, “Did anything happen at school today that you didn’t like?  What happened?  What were you feeling when that happened?”

Do ask, “What was the best part of your day today?  What did you like about that?  How did you feel when that happened?”

When having “feelings“ discussions with your child, be careful to not suggest that they shouldn’t feel the way that they feel.  Often times we do this because their feelings don’t make sense to us.  But their feelings are real and legitimate.

A productive “feelings discussion” consists of the following:

  1. Allow them to vent their feelings with no judgment.

Ask them to tell you more about it, how often they feel that way, etc.

  1. Then ask them how they want to feel.

Steer clear from asking, “What would make you feel better?  They probably don’t know or else they’d be doing it already.

  1. Problem solve with them as to how they can produce the feeling that they want.

See if they have any ideas.  You may offer some ideas.  Allow them to choose a course of action.

This conversation validates and empowers them which can drastically empty the Negative Feeling Bucket and fill the Positive Feeling Bucket at the same time!

 

Corina Helgestad imageCorina Helgestad is a professional counselor who especially likes working with teen girls in such areas as self-esteem, cutting, suicide, depression, and anxiety. To learn more about Corina, or to set up an appointment click here.

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No more sibling rivalry!

No more sibling rivalry!

Really?!  No…not really – I’m not sure how to fashion that kind of serenity in a home, but there are some things you can do to help reduce sibling rivalry, and to provide a foundation for your children to truly love and care for each other as they grow older.

I’m raising four children.  Two are adults and two are quickly on their way to adulthood.  Each of the siblings are close to each other.  I’ve often pondered how it is that I am so blessed to have these four wonderful children who genuinely care about each other.  It’s been a joy to hear one daughter comment how she wants to find a future husband who is like her brother, or watch my son pick up his little sister after a concert telling her how proud he is of her as he swings her around in a circle.  These things don’t just happen by chance, there’s usually a parent or two who has fostered this kind of relationship for years.

Here are some secrets I’ve found that have worked for my family.  One area that is a problem in most families is in the area of disagreement.  I’ve tried to help my children in knowing how to disagree well.  It isn’t ok in my home for someone to talk disrespectfully to a family member no matter how young or old they are.  My toddlers were corrected and directed how to say things kindly.  I have made it a habit to talk to my children respectfully regardless of where my emotions want to lead me.

Another tool I implemented was that of an effectual apology.  A quick “I’m sorry” from one sister to another after a painful exchange was said, is not sufficient for this Mother.  A true, “I’m sorry,” comes from the lips of someone who is able to identify what they had done, verbalize it, and make a change in future behavior.  When my children were little you might have seen me coaching a daughter and hearing her say,  I’m sorry for calling you ugly, that was mean of me, will you please forgive me?”  The offended child had to decide if they were willing to accept the apology or not.  Sometimes that process might take a few hours, or even longer.  I tried not to force the forgiveness.  In order for forgiveness to be genuine, it needs to come from the heart.  This pattern probably isn’t perfect, but as a rule of thumb it has worked well in my family.

My children fought, made up and fought again, but the fights lessened over time.  Today they are close and call each other friend.  What a satisfying legacy for this Mom.

Erin Morgan imageErin Morgan is a licensed professional counselor at the Center with over 20 years of counseling experience.  To learn more about Erin, or to set up an appointment click here.

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