Therapy advice to put in your pocket and take with you.

We are stressing them out. And they’re going to burnout or breakdown before they even finish the journey!

My son is an excellent student. He is a unique 10th grader. He is conscientious, he has excellent time-management skills, he has good social skills, he does chores without being asked… He’s too good to be true! But this comes at a price. In addition to all of these wonderful things, he spends hours redoing school assignments to get a higher grade and stresses over what major he should choose two years from now so he can choose the right college in enough time to apply and get a great scholarship. He worries he’s not good enough or smart enough or won’t be successful enough. When I asked him what he wanted for Christmas he said nothing, just college money. Woah! Slow down mister! You have your entire life to worry about the big stuff. How about just being a kid? And yet, he’s not alone. His friends are the same way. It’s a blessing and a curse to be a smart kid, and I’m wondering if ignorance really is bliss. There are many high achieving students who are stressing themselves out. And we as a society are encouraging it.Stress

I once knew a high school student whose parent worked at a very prestigious university which would allow the student to attend for free. Even so, the student pushed herself to take multiple advanced classes and get high honors as well as volunteer hours so she could get a scholarship. Why? She didn’t need a scholarship. She said she wanted to prove to herself she could. My son’s middle school science teacher told the class what he teaches now in 7th grade is what he learned freshman year of college. 4th graders are learning geometry. Kindergartners who didn’t learn to read in preschool are behind.

Why are we doing this? Why are we pushing and pushing and insisting they know more and more? I know what you are going to say. Because we need to compete with other countries, yada yada. But at what cost? Playing a sport and pushing to win, practice and games every night of the week, a different sport every season. High academics and volunteer hours and student leadership. Plus, they have to score at certain levels so the school gets accreditation and funding. It’s building and building and building and they’re not sleeping or eating right. Pushing harder in sports but not given the right education about nutrition and what a body needs to maintain that level of intensity. Or weight training without safety training. Or pushing themselves without teaching life balance…

How do you feel every day? How stressful is your job? Are you stressed? Are you tired? I’m sure you are. We all are. As a society, the pressures we are dealing with are more intense than ever. So what do you do to unwind? To relax? Do you watch TV, read for leisure, exercise, hang with friends, drink, eat, nap? Have you learned in your life that your body needs rest and a break from the pressure? Most of us have learned that and most of us know our limits and say I’m done, I’m just gonna sit here and veg for a while. But as we are teaching our children about competition and responsibility and what it takes to succeed, are we also teaching them how to set healthy boundaries, life/ work balance and self-care? I’m afraid we are not. I’m afraid we are pushing our kids to do more and be more than they can handle.

I am not suggesting complacency or lethargy or apathy. But come on, how about some balance? There is no way any of us would tolerate the schedules and work and pressure these kids handle every day. We’d balk. But they can’t. Because we have trained them to believe they have to do this to succeed. But do they? Do they really? Is it worth it in the long run? I’m not so sure. We told our son we’d rather he be a C-student and happy than an A-student and miserable. He said, really? We said yes. When these teens are shutting down, quitting, getting injured, getting sick, pushing back, getting anxious or depressed or suicidal…at some point we have to realize that they are KIDS, and being a kid just isn’t fun anymore. I think it’s time we as parents and educators and community members encourage downtime and balance. The whole idea of putting more recess back into the school day is fundamental to helping students realize they can’t keep pushing themselves without allowing themselves some breaks. We as adults know this because we as a society have more stress and high blood pressure than ever before and wait until a crisis before addressing the problem. I’d like to see us as a community be more proactive about teaching overall physical and mental health. It’s a sad day when I have to tell my teenager to stop doing homework, that’s enough. But if I have to push him to get a B instead of an A to save his mental health, I’m not afraid to do it. Perfection is an illusion.report card

What do you mean I haven’t blogged in six months? How is that possible? This is a prime example of how life gets away from us. I have been focused on attending to the crises that present themselves, “putting out fires” as they say, and I’ve put the other stuff on the back burner until I have time. Well we can see how that worked out. Six months went by! I have always known this. You have to be proactive. You have to make time for the things that matter. But it sure is easy to get wrapped up with things and way off track.10313784_726687540767928_6619839759579931771_n

There is a nice trend this New Year that instead of setting resolutions that they worry will fail, people are choosing theme words that represent an attitude or a commitment for the year. One of my friends has chosen Organization as her word, and will use it to keep her life that has started to feel chaotic more in order. Another friend chose Nurture and plans to nurture her body and her family and her job. There are so many ways to apply these words. They become a Mantra that you can whisper to yourself every single day as opportunities present themselves for self-care.

The word I have chosen is Schedule. I am taking charge of my daily and weekly life. I am planning exercise and recreation, as well as chores and bill paying and even blogging! I’m not a control freak about time, that actually might be the problem. I tend to wing it. I can be very productive that way and do well at multi-tasking. But the old way tends to only focus on what the world is demanding from me rather than what I CHOOSE to see as important. So this year I am even scheduling time to schedule time. I will be realistic and build flexibility into the schedule, but being proactive will help me make sure my own priorities are attended to and not left to sit and then six months goes by.

Will you choose a word this year? If so, be sure to make it positive rather than punishing. Have it be applicable to many situations and be kind to yourself. This life changing stuff is a big deal. (Here is a link to my friend Margo’s blog about this One Word Resolution making. No Resolutions or Goals)10628115_726130297490319_2284401736206326049_n

You might be surprised what you discover.

I told a teenager the other day that if I owned a restaurant and he applied for a job, I would google him to see what kind of person he is. He kind of blew me off until I suggested I google him right then. His eyes got huge. So of course I googled him, in front of him. His name came up with a Twitter account, a Facebook account. When I saw his screen name on Twitter I googled that and found him on Instagram. His privacy settings were ok for Facebook, I couldn’t see his posts (he was relieved) but when I showed him what pictures were not hidden by his privacy settings he was surprised and a little embarrassed because his profile picture was a colorful unicorn. His Twitter and Instagram were not private because he wanted lots of followers. I was able to read his posts and they were full of bad words and sexual innuendo. He wasn’t breaking any laws, but I let him know that if I was a potential employer I would not hire him. During the whole conversation he was squirming in his seat, humiliated and said he was going home to change everything. The next day I googled him again and he had done so. Message received.

The reason I did this was to show him that in today’s society employers, scholarship judges, college admission staff and potential relationship interests do their homework. In our state we have a website where you can put in someone’s name and see all of the legal proceedings against them, for free, not on a background site you pay for. Any smart dating person looks here too.  

I had this discussion with a female client of mine and her internet behavior was pristine. I gave her kudos for doing a good job with her privacy settings. I also pointed out that in one picture I could see, she was wearing her cheerleading outfit with the name of her school on the shirt. So even though she didn’t post her name or age or location, a potential creeper could figure it out from just one picture. This is something she had not considered.

Do you know what your internet presence looks like? How about your child’s? It is typical for a kid to do things on impulse and not think about the long term consequences. It is our job to teach them, to show them. To kids today the internet is comfortable and common and they aren’t afraid of it like we were when we first started putting parental controls on every computer we had years ago. Now that is much more difficult to do and our kids think there is no need for it.

Take some time to Google Yourself and Google Your Kid to see what’s out there, and have a conversation about being more aware and more safe. And take that unicorn off your profile picture kid! (Just kidding.)

Therapy in a Nutshell

I have always known life isn’t easy. From my own tough experiences but more importantly, from hearing every day the difficult things people experience when they share them with me in counseling, I have heard some doozies. And yet, through it all, I am repeatedly awed by the strength of the human spirit to persevere. I tell people all the time that they can handle so much more than they realize. They don’t think they can, but then when it happens, they do, they survive, they make it through.

I don’t think we worried we wouldn’t survive parenting a child with Down Syndrome. We knew we would be okay. But there was so much we didn’t know, it was scary. Parenting itself is already an adventure into the Great Unknown. It’s the most rewarding and the most powerless feeling anyone could have. Add to that parenting a child with special…

View original post 220 more words

With many people posting about #NationalBestFriendDay, I started reflecting on what makes for a lasting friendship and I keep coming back to EFFORT. Relationships take work. They do not nurture themselves. Just as a plant will blossom if you tend to it, so will a relationship. And if you neglect it, it will die. 

Reach out to those you care about. Call each other, text a cute emoji for no reason. If they pop into your mind, tell them so.

Make time to be together. Don’t wait until you have time because you know that’ll never happen. You have to make time. 

Make your people a priority. Remember that old saying that no one puts on their tombstone “I wish I would have worked more.” Don’t put something you dislike ahead of something you love. That produces regret. 

No one puts on their tombstone “I wish I would have worked more.”

Go the extra mile. Don’t hesitate to inconvenience yourself occasionally to help someone. It’s difficult for them to ask you for help and it means so much to know someone cares. And you’ll benefit from knowing you helped.

Don’t isolate. Don’t pout. And don’t stand around waiting for an invitation. If you want to hang out or talk, just ask. Reciprocate. Don’t wait for them to do the work. You can plan and invite too. I promise, they too are lonely sometimes and will be glad you called. 

If you each decide you want the relationship to last, it can. But you have to tend to it. It’s totally worth it.

Dedicated to my people. 😜 You know who you are. 

What do you do if your older parent chooses different medical treatment than you want for them? If they want to stop taking their medicine or if the refuse treatment? If they are tired of living and just don’t want to try anymore. This is a dilemma I have seen time and again in families. Adult children have their own ideas about how their parent should treat an illness and this can result in an argument.

If an adult is in their “right mind,” meaning they have not been assessed and determined to be incapable of making rational decisions, then they get to choose. And this can be very difficult for their families. I have seen adults stop taking medicine because they didn’t believe in medicine or they didn’t like how it made them feel. Or because they couldn’t afford it. Their children say, but you need it to live! The adult knows this, but is making a choice.  I have seen adults have very harrowing experiences in the hospital, painful surgeries or debilitating side effects, long term recovery. They know they never want to experience that again, so they might refuse to see the doctor if they know something is wrong or if they fear they might need surgery again. If someone hasn’t been through this, they may not realize how traumatic it is and how fear can stop someone from acting. It is similar to having a car accident and being afraid to drive again. I have even seen people decide they want to stop living. They are tired; tired of hurting or tired of being alone or tired of being a burden. They aren’t suicidal, they are just passive about working to live and if death comes they are willing to embrace it. This scares their children because they don’t want to lose the parent. But whose best interest are the children acting in?elderly_console

I’m not suggesting stand back and let the parent die. I’m suggesting try to understand why the parent is feeling how they feel and be respectful. It may be difficult, but try to imagine how you will feel at that age. Try to assist that adult in maintaining their choices and their dignity, but it is also ok to have a conversation about how you feel. Enlist the help of a social worker, a pastor or a therapist to mediate the conversation and help each person see the other’s perspective. Ultimately, however, you as the adult child might have to get help for yourself in dealing with not liking your parent’s choices. This is not an easy scenario, when you and your parent disagree on how the parent should treat an illness or choose to live, but if you try to force the parent to comply it will often result in anger and resentment, loss of dignity and depression for the older parent. Not necessarily a better solution.

You Don’t Know Me

An amazing admission… So many first responders suffer in silence in order to “stay strong” but over time the horror they see that no human should see takes its toll.

Great share here.

What will you miss when you are older?

What are the inefficient frivolous things you do as an adult that probably waste time or money but you don’t care? Do you go out of your way to a store you like even though it’s an extra five minutes, or splurge on yummy ice cream you don’t need? Do you drive up to the convenience store at 10:00 at night to pick something up? Do you hold onto bad habits that you know you shouldn’t? Do you sometimes stay up late watching TV? These are things we take for granted as mobile independent adults. We do what we want, when we want, because we can. But what if you couldn’t drive and you were dependent on others for rides for everything? Or what if you were on a limited income and there was no room left for frivolous? Or if you lived in someone else’s home and they bought the groceries or controlled the TV? These are the losses that older adults face every day and their children don’t realize.

Getting older often means things our bodies once did easily like walking two steps up the porch can no longer be taken for granted. Balance is off, immune system is down, eyesight goes, response time is slower. Things like this that allow us to remain independent, to come and go as we please, to run into the kitchen during a commercial, become difficult. And that sucks. Losing these seemingly small things can add up to a great sense of loss. Driving less or not at all, no longer being able to live on their own, becoming confused with all of life’s changes can make older adults feel very dependent on their children and a burden. They need so much to meet their daily needs that they stop asking for the frivolous stuff that we all enjoy as adults. What can we do to help?CNY_SM_20131129_QUOTE

The longer someone can maintain their independence the better. Even in the little things. Even if they live with you, they may still be able to contribute as productive members of the family. Here are some suggestions:

  • Don’t patronize them. Ask them to help in ways that they can sincerely productively help with. They aren’t stupid and if you are condescending they will know it.
  • Don’t nitpick or micromanage. Let them do silly frivolous things if they want to. It’s the benefit of being a grown-up. None of us like our every behavior to be analyzed.
  • Let them have bad habits. They have given up so much already. They are adults, they have choices, they know the risks. So do you on your bad habits.
  • Include them in the decisions about their own lives. If you help in making their appointments, include them in the decision of where to go and when to go and whether to keep going.
  • Talk to them, not about them. They’re right here. Don’t talk around them to your siblings or the doctor.
  • Don’t tiptoe around the truth. They know they are old. They know things have changed. Be honest. Choices at the end of their lives are just as important as every other time in life.
  • Don’t yell at them or treat them like children. It may sometimes feel like they have digressed and act child-like. Often this is because they are confused or scared. Be kind and respectful.
Grown daughter talking to parents at home

Grown daughter talking to parents at home

My grandmother ate half a banana and drank a glass of prune juice every day for 80 years. When she went into a nursing home that daily habit stopped abruptly because it wasn’t part of the dietary plan. What daily habits do you have that you would miss if someone else was in charge of your life? Consider these things in caring for the older adults in your life and their dignity and independence will last longer, I promise.

At a recent assembly of 5th grade students (age 11) I asked how many of them have devices like phones, tablets or iPods that they can put apps on. ¾ of the students raised their hands. Then I asked how many of them talk to other people through those apps. Half raised their hands. In a room of 250 11-year-olds, 125 of them talk to other people online. Does this surprise you? Here’s another fact… did you know that the average age-range of youth who send inappropriate content over the internet (“sexting”) is 10-15, with the most common age being 12! Let me say that again another way. The most common age of student sending sexual content over text, video or wifi app is 12.Cell Phones Schools

These teens and preteens communicate with their friends about everyday stuff. But sometimes that branches out into flirty or attraction conversations. Social media is so commonly used by this generation that they do not think about the infinite extent of their reach. They send a picture to a friend, that person may send it to five others and eventually it goes to hundreds of strangers. The internet also creates an opportunity for youth to “meet” people all over the world. And especially for a kid who feels disconnected or hurt by their local peers, talking to strangers around the world is tempting, easy, and gives an artificial sense of anonymity and safety. But they are often unaware of what they could actually get in trouble for. Here are some obvious and not so obvious things kids under 18 can get in big trouble for in many states.

  • Sending a picture or video of themselves naked, partially naked, or in suggestive poses.
  • Receiving a picture or video from someone else even if they didn’t ask for it.
  • Asking someone for a sexual picture, even if the person doesn’t send one.
  • Having a sexual conversation via message or text, even without video or pictures
  • Spreading rumors about someone else’s sexual behavior via message or text
  • Sending or receiving a sexually explicit picture or video of someone else

This is not an exhaustive list but my point is that while many students might think they are flirting, or joking, or that they have deleted videos or messages, this information is stored and recorded and often sent on when they don’t even realize it.

What kind of trouble could they get in? Well, in many cases, when a person under 18 takes a picture of their own naked body, it can be considered production of child pornography. If they text or message or email or video or find some other way to send that inappropriate picture to someone else, that can be considered distribution of child pornography. If a student has a sexual picture on his phone or computer or device but it is of someone he doesn’t know, the student can get in trouble for possessing pornography.  If a student is contacted by an adult and engages in conversation and exchanges sexual content, the adult will get in trouble, but the student might too.kid-arrested

Many of these are considered felony charges, often at the federal level. Students can go to jail or be placed on probation. Some will be required to register with a sex offender list.  In addition, even if the indiscretions are not picked up by law enforcement agencies but are addressed in the school system, students can lose their scholarships and be banned from playing school sports because of character guidelines. It has also become common practice for employers and colleges to research a potential candidate’s online presence and not offer them acceptance if they have a questionable history.

It is imperative that parents be aware of what their child’s online behavior is. Know what apps are out there and who your child is talking to. Here is a (short) list of common apps that people use to share this kind of information:

  • Kik
  • Omegle
  • Instagram
  • Vine
  • Grinder
  • Snapchat
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Texting
  • Google Hangouts
  • Skype
  • Twitter

These applications are not evil in nature. Plenty of people use them appropriately every day, myself included. They just need to be used with discretion. Please share the above information with your child and discuss the risks involved. If they want to talk to strangers online, find out why and discuss ways to stay safe. Most importantly students should be made aware of the potential consequences of online behavior they may assume is no big deal because “everyone is doing it.” Remember, this is not just high school students.

The most common age of kids sending naked and sexual content is 12. Twelve. Sixth Grade.

This is a topic I started counseling when working with kids in anger management. We’d discuss how anger is a secondary emotion. It’s real, but it’s second, happens after the primary or underlying emotion. If you are angry, I teach, that is a cue to ask yourself what else are you feeling inside also.Because to manage the anger we must address the emotion that is fueling the anger. That emotion might be sadness or worry, powerlessness or fear. But most often, the number one cause of anger is Disappointment with a capital D. What I have discovered, after years of talking to clients, is that adults should be aware that Disappointment triggers them too. disappointment-sign

Mother’s Day. Valentine’s Day. A birthday. Times we get our hopes up for something to happen, but the result doesn’t meet our expectations. That’s hard. It’s a bummer. It kinda sucks. When a kiddo has a fit because they don’t get their way, we tell them to knock it off. Grow up. Deal with it. And yet, adults really aren’t much better at handling disappointment. Our fits might be more controlled (or not…I’ve seen some serious adult temper tantrums…!) but we have them just as often as kids do. Why is this?

Unrealistic expectations is a big reason. Being hurt and disappointed that a family member doesn’t offer more support. And yet, truth be told, that person has never been good at offering support. I’m not justifying it, I’m just saying it is what it is. If that person has been a jerk for 20 years, why would they change this year? And yet, there we go, hoping this time will be different. And there we go, upset again. We get our hopes up and we get disappointed yet again.

In researching images for this blog post I found many pictures saying “if you expect nothing, you’ll never be disappointed.” I don’t think that’s what I’m suggesting here. I think its okay to hope. But if there is a pattern, realize there is a pattern. Don’t be in denial or ignore the facts and then be surprised that it turned out the same way it always has. If you don’t like how it turned out last time, do something different. Change your expectations, or put your faith and hope in someone who is more likely to accommodate your need. Try to get some clarity so you can have more realistic expectations.

That’s not always easy. It requires insight and observation. Asking yourself, what am I hoping for and can that happen? What are the chances? Accepting that you’re not going to get the results from the current situation can be difficult too. It can mean accepting a truth you don’t want to face, like this person really won’t ever stop drinking or you won’t ever get promoted in this job, or your parent will never be the accepting nurturing parent you think you deserve. Accepting those facts might pressure you to change and change is scary. I tell people all the time that they don’t have to change. But they do have to accept where they are if they want to stop being disappointed. acceptance

I asked a young nine-year-old client to give me an example of a time she felt disappointed. She said, “when my brother got invited to the Cardinals game and I didn’t. I was mad because I really wanted to go. THAT was disappointing.” She was right on the money. She got it. Hopefully we adults can also be so wise and recognize the emotion for what it is and get better at handling that gigantic capital D.

%d bloggers like this: