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Forget School For the Summer!

canstockphoto3930124As we enter into summer, one question I am frequently asked by parents is : ‘What can I be working on so that my child continues to progress over the summer?’  If your child has had a difficult school year, having two full months with no formal academic activities can certainly cause worry.  Looking for answers, and at times not finding much, it can seem like there’s not much for parents to do but enroll kids in tutoring, or if possible a skill building workshop or class, or resort to working with their kids on their own with worksheets and materials from their child’s teachers – not always a fun endeavor when kids want to be outside with peers or doing something non-academic related.

My number one recommendation to these types of requests (while keeping in mind that every child is an individual and will require individualized recommendations)? READING. Yes. Regardless of your child’s age, reading ability, level, and grade, the more time your child reads, the better. Reading, and if your child is struggling with reading, reading with your child,  is simply the strongest recommendation I can offer to help your child succeed academically. 20 minutes every day. That’s the recommendation. Not a workbook. Not a program, not a technique, not a workshop. Read with your child. 20 minutes, everyday. You don’t need to learn ‘how to teach your child to read’. You don’t even need really great reading skills ! Just read with your kids. 20 minutes. Everyday. Here’s why:

In the world of education, 20 minutes a day is a magic number regarding reading. This is connected to a famous study conducted in 1987 by Nagy and Herman. The study examined how much time students spent reading, how many words read, and then performance on standardized tests measuring reading achievement. I probably don’t need to tell you; students who spend 20 minutes a day reading scored at the 90th percentile on tests measuring reading achievement. Those in the study that spent 5 minutes reading? Scored in the 5oth percentile. That’s a big difference.

Thanks to Pinterest and the internet, type in ‘why your child can’t skip reading tonight’ and the visuals that accompany this statistic will astound. But here is the logic: one student, Amy, reads 20 minutes a night, 5 nights a week. In one week, that’s 100 minutes of reading; in one month, 400 minutes; one school year, 3600 minutes; and by the end of the sixth grade – 21,600 minutes of reading!  Her friend, Mark, reads only 4 minutes a night, or not at all. In one week, that’s 20 minutes of reading; in one month, 80 minutes; one school year, 720 minutes; and by the end of the sixth grade – 4320 minutes of reading.

Is your child more of an Amy (by the end of the sixth grade, has read 21,600 minutes or 60 days) or more of a Mark (by the end of the sixth grade, 4320 minutes or 12 school days)? Given that the fluency (how fast or slow a student reads) can vary, the number words read might be somewhat different, but it’s estimated that Amy would have read 1.8 million words, and Mark over 282,00o words.

It’s such a dramatic difference, I myself had to look at that math twice just to be sure it wasn’t a trick.

Now ask yourself, who is the better reader? Who would you expect to know more? And so on…..

So this summer, let yourself and your student truly relax and enjoy some reading! In the long run, it might be the best thing you can do to help your child’s school achievement for next year.

 

 

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Thoughts And Prayers Are Not Enough

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In the hours after a tragedy inspired by intolerance and bigotry, it is difficult for me to write. I want to be angry and sad, and simply feel those feelings until they dissipate and I’m swept up in the next wave of media and life. I want to sit and watch the news, safely in my home, without action, knowing that it would likely be a reaction to the senseless hate that our country has struggled to defuse. I want to send my “hopes and prayers to the victims and their families” in order to feel a little better about the world and how I experience it, but, I also know that that isn’t, and never will be, enough. Whether you are an advocate for the LGBTQ community or an advocate for civil liberties, wishes and prayers are not enough to stop the violence and intolerance that divide our nation and break our hearts. For real and lasting change to happen we must, as participants in the democratic process, engage mindfully and thoughtfully in the political and cultural dialogues that are happening right now. Have an opinion, listen to others opinion, validate and learn about the differences, and by the grace of God or whatever you believe in, love each other. So instead of just wishing and praying, educate yourself beyond the emotional reactivity we see from Fox News and CNN.

Usually, the hours after a terrorist attack the media turns toward dialogue and coverage about the attackers that further instigates fear and polarization between
“Us and Them”. This binary mentality prevents us from seeing the individuals within the “them” and leads to more polarizing actions rather than learning to understand, communicate with, and co-exist with “them.”

When we choose to do nothing but listen or perpetuate the hate and fear rhetoric, we are ignoring our responsibility and opportunity to heal. By all means, send your prayers to these people, but also know that actions like voting, donating time or money, or having dialogue with others that promotes understanding and tolerance will help move us in the right direction.

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Camp Gregory – A Weekend of Healing for Grieving Children

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Children who are experiencing grief and loss struggle with identifying how and what they are feelings, as there are often no words to describe the emotions they experience. Oftentimes, they feel isolated and alone in their pain and confusion. Camp Gregory gives young children the experience of healing together with other children who have also suffered loss and are trying to process their feelings of grief. Join us for a weekend of play therapy, laughter and healing.

Location: Grandview Family Counseling, 1576 S. 500 W. Bountiful, Utah.

Dates: Friday, August 5th and Saturday, August 6th.

Facilitating: Holly Willard, LCSW RPT-S and Clair Mellenthin, LCSW RPT-S.

Ages 5-8 from 9am-12pm Friday and Saturday.

Ages 9-12 from 1pm-4pm Friday and Saturday.

Cost: $200

To register, call (801) 406-9002 or visit grandviewfamilycounseling.com.

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Good Intentions, Bad Advice

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http://kutv.com/features/fresh-living/clair-mellenthin-llc-good-intentions-bad-advice

Clair Mellenthin visited Fresh Living to talk about what you should do in that situation. She says it’s important to trust yourself as a parent, and when you are needing advice, seek out information from trusted sources.

5 Way to Deal With “Advice”

  1. Smile, and say “Thank you” then walk away (and then choose to either toss it to the wind or think about it later)
  2. Ask how this advice has worked with their own child
  3. You have permission to just say, “You know, its a bad day today” and not justify your or your child’s behaviors to others
  4. Say “Parenting is a tough job some days. Its lucky I love this little guy”
  5. Set a boundary- if someone is overstepping their role in your or your child’s life, it is okay to set a limit and tell them no (wait! This is parenting right?!)

For more information from Clair, visit wasatchfamilytherapy.com or call (801) 944-4555

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Having a Sane Summer with a Full Household

You can hear the kids now, “I’m boooooorrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeddddddd.” And instantly, your anxiety levels begin to rise. Wouldn’t it be great if our kids came home from the end of the school year and built cocoons for 2.5 months before emerging as beautiful, colorful, next graders? Instead, they come home and any semblance of sanity we had begins to drift away when that last day of “school” (aka the 90 minute “day” that proves someone in the district scheduling office needs a best friend named Basket of Chocolate covered Fruit) ends.

So how do you have a sane summer with a full household? Here are a few ideas that have helped me and that I hope will help you.

  1. Be aware of kids’ needs to simply decompress..

School has been a big year for them whether it’s their kindergarten or senior year. They may want to veg out and do nothing (teens) or they may have anxious excess energy to burn just because (elementary school).  Our role as parents it to observe what our kids need and provide them access to meeting their need.

  1. Learn how your kid decompresses.

Depending on their age and developmental stage, your child’s need for stimulation will vary. As parents, we are responsible to help meet their stimulation needs. My favorite resource for understanding the energy level of my kids is “Fire Child, Water Child” which I’ve written about here– it’s one of the best holistic approaches to attention and activity challenges in the school and family setting. I know that I have an earth child and a wood/fire child. I’m a water child and each of our elements feed into and feed off of each other.  Learning about my kids’ needs and how it impacts my own needs helps me help them engage and relax. Teaching our kids what balance is will help them value it as part of a healthy life style.

  1. Involve the family!

I’ve found that the best way to do this is to discover an activity that each of my kids might like and then as a family, work together on the activity. This way each individual person gets something that’s just for them and the family gets the experience of creating something for their loved one.   Last summer, we made Lego Calm Down jars – you can find the information here – and my kids enjoyed the hours we spent talking about the activity, getting supplies for the activity, completing the activity and sharing the results with our friends. Involving your kids in the process from start to finish will take a bit longer than if you just did it yourself, however, this is actually part of disciplining your kid without drama. Discipline them to become a certain kind of person because of the relationship they have with you. This relationship is built in the activities you complete together just as much as the teaching and instructing we do in moments.

  1. Don’t forget about the parents!

One thing I’ve worked on as a parent is understanding that my needs are as valid as my kids’ needs. My regulation is as important and necessary as their regulation. So when I do activities with them, I have them create activities with me too. I enjoy coloring and painting, so I have an easel for myself and each of my kids in our basement and we spend time painting. We each have our own coloring books and pencils, so we spend time coloring. When parents are balanced, we can teach our kids about balance.

  1. When all else fails – and there will be those days – go for what’s easy.

My other go-to, when I’m not in my calm, regulated, trying to be Zen Mom mode is right here. It will give you about 45 minutes of peace until you can either find an escape or the strength to try again.

Have a Happy & Sane Summer! 

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The 22 Day Challenge: Honoring our Veterans

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As a therapist, I am always happy to see social media bringing awareness to mental health issues, especially suicide. This month an army veteran in Michigan started it to get people talking about POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER.
To accept the challenge, you do 22 push ups each day for 22 days to raise awareness and funds to show military men and women they are not alone.  Every day, an estimated 22 veterans commit suicide because they cannot cope with what they’’ve been through, CBS2’s Emily Smith reported (newyork.cbslocal.com)
Former Navy SEAL Kevin Lacz portrayed himself in the film “American Sniper” alongside Bradley Cooper, who played Chris Kyle. Kyle became a mentor to Lacz in Iraq. Kyle is known as the man with the most sniper kills in U.S. history. He was murdered by a former marine suffering from PTSD after he was honorably discharged.
“It’s an issue that’s alarming, stunning, striking… and I think we need to pay more attention to it,” Lacz said.
He worked up a sweat for the PTSD awareness challenge, but he said there’ is a stereotype that everyone who serves has the disorder.
“They estimate 20 to 25 percent do. There’’s another 75 percent who don’’t and people are quick to put the label if you served overseas you have PTSD.”
But Lacz said the issue and experiences that cause it should be talked about by everyone including war veterans themselves.
“There’s always that perception don’t ask what someone did overseas, but I think people want to know,” he said. “Your experiences are powerful. You led squads while your buddies were playing video games in college.”
Here at Wasatch Family Therapy, we are always trying to being awareness to suicide, a topic many do not like to talk about.  Take this holiday to read up on the stats of suicide and take the Push Up Challenge, which shows war veterans they are not alone and have an army of their own to help empower them once again.
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There and Back Again: How To Create Your Own Red Book of Westmarch

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before but journaling can actually improve your quality of life. If you’re like me, you may be thinking “Yeah right like I really have the time to sit down to a bureau with my feather pen dipped in fresh ink to write in a red leather-bound book about all my adventures like Bilbo and Frodo Baggins” but in actuality you have more time than you think.

There are three common myths about journaling that I’d like to dispel in this particular blog:

Common Myth #1: I Don’t Have Time To Journal – Believe it or not, journaling doesn’t have to be a four-hour long engagement with you and your thoughts on paper. It can be a quick couple of lines jotted down to describe your day or some lingering thought you had or perhaps just a reflection on something you heard or experienced (I mean that’s pretty much like being on social media where you already work wonders easily with 140 characters or less).

Common Myth #2: My Life Isn’t Interesting Enough – Rubbish. You are a human being, exisiting in a world full of so much good, bad, and downright ugly where you interact with people all the time whether it be colleagues, family, or friends and you’ve yet to cease to live to tell the tale! You have more going on in your life than you think and it’s great material from which to

Common Myth #3: Journaling Is For Great Writers – Nay! You do not have to be a Pulitzer Prize-winner to be qualified to keep a journal. Journals do not judge you for having poor grammar or incoherent run on sentences nor should you! So feel free to write whatever comes to mind and don’t worry if it doesn’t make sense because it doesn’t have to.

The cool thing is journaling has adapted to the digital age. This means for those of you who are tech savvy and prefer the electronic alternative to the old pen and paper method, you can download free journal apps on any of your mobile devices. As for myself personally, I enjoy the best of both worlds so I bought a journal and I downloaded an app for when time is sparse.

Journaling has a myriad of benefits. Just the idea of keeping track of your thoughts, reflections, and experiences can be very rewarding for your posterity who may not have had the opportunity to know you while you roamed the earth. It can be a source for inspiration and creativity when those moments of genius strike. According to a widely cited study by James W. Pennebaker and Janel D. Seagal, “Writing about important personal experiences in an emotional way…brings about improvements in mental and physical health.” Proven benefits include better stress management, strengthened immune systems, fewer doctor visits, and improvement in chronic illnesses such as asthma.

Needless to say journaling has endless benefits and you can always use something that will benefit you.

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Righteousness Does NOT Cure Depression

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As I have worked with several clients who struggle with depression, I have noticed a consistent theme among those who prescribe to religion. Many of them tend to carry a belief that if they would only be more righteous, they would not be struggling with depression, or other mental health issues. If they would only pray more or read more holy writ. If they could only be more devoted to God, Adonai, Allah, Prabhu; then this illness would be removed from them. The following are some of the challenges I have found with this flawed belief.

  1. Most religions teach that human struggle is necessary and expected for growth and progression. Therefore, this belief is in direct conflict with the very teachings one prescribes to. Depression, or any other challenge, can be seen rather as a part of one’s “refining” process, not a detriment to it or a punishment because of that natural process.
  2. Making a medical health comparison, I don’t believe that most people would believe their God sees physical injuries or wounds as evidence of impurity or sin. So, why then do we make that assumption regarding mental illnesses? Is it because one who is religious may associate their mind with their identity more than they would their body? Do we take more accountability for what goes on in our head than our body? Additionally, sometimes people who could use valuable treatment and resources, avoid it because they believe between themselves and God, they have it covered. Regarding our previous example of infection, wouldn’t God expect one to pray AND seek good medical care?
  3. Why would only some be punished by depression for sin, and others not? A more accurate interpretation may be, that it has nothing to do with sin or righteousness, but rather a genetic predisposition for the illness.
  4. Many times, those who believe that depression is a bad omen, reduce their religion to a source of guilt, rather than the uplifting support it may have been previously. Many people report that religion can be a tremendous support and relief during times of trial. The belief that one is not righteous enough to be cured of depression, robs them of the components of religion that can bring hope and peace during times or horrific challenge. Religion and God can be a tremendous tool in one’s journey to healing and health.

I believe there is a reason why so many of my clients tend to fall into this flawed thinking trap. One of the side effects of depression can be a sense of numbness or apathy. Unfortunately, when you are numb, it likely means you can’t feel God either. One may mistake the sudden lack of spiritual feelings, as a disconnection from Him, or a punishment.

I would urge all who struggle with this thought pattern now, to trust in the things you already know to be true regarding the character of your God. Allow yourself to be human and injured, the way He allows you to be.

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Nutrition and Depression

canstockphoto0173381Nutrition and Depression
Have you ever considered food as a treatment or means of reducing your symptoms of Depression.  Through the research of Nutritional Psychology studies are finding concrete links between nutrition and relief of various mental health symptoms.
Take a look at this Psych Central Article published By Jane Collingwood
http://psychcentral.com/lib/can-nutrition-help-fight-or-ward-off-depression/
Melanie Davis CMHC NCC is currently studying within the field of Nutritional Psychology and excited about offering her clients a wide variety of options for reducing common symptoms associated with Anxiety and Depression.
For more information contact Wasatch Family Therapy at 801.944.4555
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