“There’s a creep factor when all of a sudden some guy is coming into the house.” This quote by Paul Lee, a stepfather interviewed in the Salt Lake Tribune’s recent article on stepfamilies, perfectly describes the uncomfortable situation many new stepfamilies find themselves in. How do you navigate the issue of combining a group of people of different ages, genders, and genes into one family under one roof? Here are 3 tips that might help:
Mean girls. It’s a title that has become common conversation in parenting circles. But the mean girl syndrome is not reserved for Junior High – in fact, it’s happening in Kindergarten.
Relational bullying or the “mean girl syndrome” is affecting girls at a younger age. The mean girl phenomenon used to start around 5th or 6th grade but now we are seeing it as early as first grade. I have seen children excluded from the group for how they dress, their religion and sadly even for their weight. The behavior usually begins as a “secret club” or best friends.
Many people young and old, male and female, struggle with recognizing their self-worth and their true potential in life. Often we are our worst critics. Most of us would gasp in horror if we heard another person speak out loud the thoughts we tell ourselves because it would be considered abusive!
Recently, as I was speaking to a group of young people and their parents on the topic of self-esteem, we broke down the definition of what self-esteem truly means. This is an interesting concept and I think helpful to break down into segments.
To esteem something is to hold it in high regard, to treasure it, to value it.
The self is you, the individual
How amazing it would be to think of your self in this manner. Is it possible to hold yourself in high regard, to value yourself, and to treasure it – i.e. to treasure you, the real you?
We are very excited to announce the opening of our Davis County Office. The Location is 405 S. 100 W. Suite # 250 Bountiful, UT 84010. We are opening Feb. 18th and currently scheduling appointments. Holly Willard, LCSW will be the clinical director and Heather Judd will be joining her. We will also be adding an intern in to provide reduced priced sessions ($50).
We are deeply saddened and horrified by the shootings at Sandy Hooks Elementary. If you have school aged children, it’s likely that they have been exposed to some of the disturbing news of these past couple days. Here are some helpful hints and guidelines in opening a discussion with your children about this event and their fears surrounding it.
1. Talk to your children about their worries. Provide a validating environment where the child can express their concerns and feelings. Start the discussion by asking what they know about the event. Follow the child’s lead. Some want to talk about it, some will be quiet. Spend time together doing activities or playing. This provides a time for informal sharing but more importantly it increases feelings of security.
2- Talk to your child on their level. Give kids honest information they can understand. Ask for questions. For instance, ” A bad guy made a very bad choice and hurt people. The bad guy is dead and can not hurt anyone else.”
3- Reassure them that they are safe now. Comfort your child if they’re distressed. If your child starts having fears or nightmares, you can normalize this fear for them by giving a gentle hug and letting them know that the information is scary but they are safe with you no matter what and you will always protect them the best that you can. Avoid telling them nothing bad can ever happen. Giving them a false sense of security actually increases anxiety because it is a unrealistic view of what can be controlled.
4. Limit their exposure to media about the event. The continuous new’s clips and updates are reminders that something frightening can happen. Seeing descriptive images can be very traumatizing. Children’s perspectives of time and place are skewed, they may not be able to differentiate how close they are to what they are seeing. Children are often unable to determine that what they are seeing is a repeat of the same event. Inform them that the images on the TV are from far away and not happening now.
5- Try to not use scary words. Young children understand “hurt” but more descriptive words such as kill, murder, etc. are beyond their present understanding. Even older school age children who do understand the definition do not need to be told in explicit detail.
6- Teach children the skill of confronting their thoughts. Just because we think something doesn’t mean it is true. Anxiety feeds on negative thoughts so help them learn how to replace their scary thoughts with reaffirming statements. Teach distraction techniques: playing with toys, exercising, singing a favorite song, etc.
If your child’s anxiety affects their ability to function on a daily basis or is persistent for longer than thirty days, seek professional help.
Above all else, children want to know that they are loved and will be protected. So turn off the TV and give them a hug and the reassurance that they are safe and you love them. This will be the best information of all.
2. It is normal for pre-school aged children to become interested and fascinated with private parts (theirs and others). Use correct medical language, not nicknames, when discussing private parts. Answer questions on a level consistent with their developmental age. (i.e. they don’t need to have anatomy lessons to understand where babies come from, that comes later). Talk to them about your personal and family values. If your child exhibits sexual behavior, it’s important to deal with it without making them feel shame or embarrassment. Here’s a resource with more detailed information and explains the difference between normal and concerning behavior.
3. With school age children, parents need to be more direct regarding sexual abuse and sex education. Some of these resources are may be too direct or differ with your values so it’s important to read before sharing them with your child. The books do not need to be read in entirety you can pick and choose depending on your child’s questions or level of understanding.
Most public schools present information about maturation in fifth grade. Children are often easily embarrassed at this age, especially boys. Some of them may find it more helpful to be given a book or pamphlets to read. However, if you choose this method make sure you have a follow-up discussion with them and are available for questions. If you are open, non-judgemental and informative it will increase the chances of them coming to you with questions instead of going to their friends. Or maybe I should say coming to you after they have heard incorrect information from their friends.
Puberty for boys: The Boys Body Book: Everything You Need To Know for Group Up You (Boys World Books)
5. Don’t worry about giving your teen too much information about sex education. Most parents error on not providing enough information because they don’t want to “expose” them. Unfortunately in my practice I see that tweens/teens have already been exposed to it. Parents need to continue to teach their values in a non-judgemental way, focusing on the benefits of living those values. Have frank discussions with them about choices and consequences. Relate it to what their peers are doing, good and bad. I cannot stress the importance of having a strong/bonded relationship prior to having these discussions.
When we hear the word “discipline”, we often think of something negative, because it usually means some form of punishment is being used. However, the word “discipline” actually means to instruct a person to follow a particular code of conduct. So, discipline can be a negative thing if we are using a forceful or controlling approach, but it can (and should) be a positive thing if we take a more instructive approach by teaching or guiding. The most effective and respectful type of discipline is one that respects your child’s ability to make choices for their behavior within the structure and limits you establish, and allows them to experience a natural or logical consequence for the behavior they choose. Here are 7 steps to help you establish this type of discipline in your own household:
One of the most common questions I get as a child therapist is, “What books do you recommend for (fill in the blank)? Here are some of my favorite books for specific issues. If you want to learn more about the books or order a book here is an Amazon list http://www.amazon.com/lm/R36QCME4OWNS7Y/ref=cm_pdp_lm_all_itms
Divorce/ Grief/ Trauma
When Dinosaurs Divorce by Laurene Krasny Brown and Marc Brown (Illustrator)
When Dinosaurs Die by Laurene Krasny Brown and Marc Brown (Illustrator)
Tear Soup by Pat Schweibert , Chuck DeKlyen, and Taylor Bills
A Terrible Thing Happened- A Story For Children Who Have Witnessed Violence or Trauma by Margaret M. Holmes
Congratulations! You’ve made it through 9-ish long months of planning and decorating, crazy cravings and frequent doctors visits, baby showers and unpredictable mood swings. You survived the journey through labor and delivery. Now, your perfect new arrival fills your heart with love and your life with meaning. Whether it’s your first or your fifteenth child, you can’t help but marvel at your baby’s every movement, coo and milestone.
For the lucky among us, the picture I paint may be pretty spot on. For the rest of us, there may have been a few unexpected feelings and experiences mixed in there as well. As many as 30% of new mothers deal with some degree of post-partum depression or post-partum anxiety. Though we all do our best to prepare for the major transition to parenthood, many among us may not plan for four major losses that are likely come along with the joy of gaining a new family member.