Therapist Corner

The Biggest Gift We Can Give Our Children

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Here I sit, thinking about what to write.  I thought about discussing anxiety, depression or behavior modification, but in the end, only one subject is in my heart at this moment…children and family.  I feel compelled to reach out to the other primary caregivers like me, whether you are a stay-at-home mom, working mom, stay-at-home dad, grandparent, aunt or uncle, you know who you are.  You are the primary person responsible for keeping your family running.  You know where everything is.  You have the family schedule down to a minute by minute breakdown.  You plan meals.  You sign the kids up for their activities and get them to said activities (Ever heard of mom’s taxi?).  You know the exact amount of time it takes your clothes washer to complete a cycle and you find yourself walking up to it just as it stops spinning so you can put in another load (because, let’s face it, there is ALWAYS another load of laundry to do).  You are the hub of the family.  You are exhausted.  No one really stops to thank you for what you do.  Sometimes you wonder if anyone even cares.  You love your family dearly, but you feel overwhelmed, overworked, and unappreciated.  It is at these moments, we behave at our worst.  We yell when we don’t mean to.  We have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and our children, and then feel guilty when none of us meet those expectations. We get caught up in the “shoulds” of life.   In short, we become a version of ourselves we don’t like.

I am here to tell you that it does not have to be this way.  I have thought about what I want for my children.  I want the normal stuff, of course.  I want them to be happy, successful, educated, and kind.  I want them to have big dreams and go after those dreams with me cheering the loudest.  But, most of all, I want my children to look back on this time and remember that I was never too busy to play Candyland.  I always listened to their stories.  I wanted to know how their day was.  I want them to say, “My mom loved us more than washing clothes, cleaning house, or doing the dishes — she loved spending time with us.”  Our kids don’t need the latest and greatest toys, fancy electronic gadgets, or a large video game collection…they need our time.  Our time is the biggest gift we can give our children.  In the absence of positive attention, our children will seek any form of attention, and that includes negative attention.  They act out more.  They are more oppositional, more defiant, and more aggravating in order to force us to pay attention to them.

Remember, actions always speak louder than words.  We can say we love them, but we must show them.  Even now, I see some laundry piled on the floor that needs to be washed, dishes that need to be put away, and a toilet that is, let’s just say, less than clean.  (In my defense, I am potty-training a 2 ½ year old.)  HOWEVER, I am going to put this computer away and go make blueberry muffins with my four kids that will result in a huge mess that I probably won’t get cleaned up very well at least for a few days, and I am not going to allow myself to feel guilty about that.

-Aimee Golden, EdS, LPC, NCC

Positive Change

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Ahhhhh.  Alas, we have reached the month of March when we can begin to enjoy the very first signs of spring.  Although we are never quite certain in the month of March whether we will need to shovel snow off the driveway or grab a light jacket for a day where temperatures reach 60 or 70, it is nevertheless a month where we begin to anticipate that spring is on its way. 

Change…March is certainly about change.  Positive change in fact, and this brings to mind this month’s topic:  Looking forward to POSITIVE CHANGE in our lives.  Certainly our lives will always have times where it feels like “winter” is drudging on and the cold days of life are here to stay.  But March is a reminder that we are people of seasons…that warmer air and positive change are seldom far away.

What positive change can I look forward to in my life?  What in my life might represent “old man winter” and what changes could represent “the beginning of new life and spring”? 

Change is certainly never an easy process for any of us, but positive change at least has the fruits of something beneficial for us to look forward to, as is the case with winter making way for spring.  My challenge for all of us this month is to begin the process of looking towards positive change.  There is a favorite question that many of us counselors love to ask in session:  “If you woke up tomorrow and a miracle had occurred in your life…things were different…you were truly happy for the first time in a long while…what would tomorrow look like?”  The answer to this question often evokes conversation about the small or large changes that most of us would like to see in our lives.  Of course this discussion also involves processing what stands in the way of happiness and positive change.

Most of us are very familiar with the Serenity Prayer:  “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  As this prayer says, there are certainly things in our lives that we cannot change.  But guess what – there are many things in our lives that we do have control over. 

One way to begin positive change is to ask oneself “the miracle question” (mentioned earlier).  Perhaps write this question down on the top of a piece of paper, then begin answering it.  Some individuals even like to divide this into two columns:  those things we do not have control over and those things we do.  The things we do not have control over in our lives involve acceptance, and this can be a difficult process as well.  However, the things that we do have control over will involve taking steps towards positive change. 

Indeed, change is seldom an easy process but it is one that is well worth it.  Given that change can be difficult, we are always here to help.  Enjoy the month of March, and as you begin to see the beginning signs of spring, let this be a reminder of our own quest for positive change!

Robert Taylor , MS, LPC

While You Were Sleeping…

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

 

Do you ever feel like one of those old rubber bands in your junk drawer? Over-stretched, bent out of shape, old and brittle, and just one good tug shy of breaking?

Yeah, me too. There are days when I feel like whatever it is I’m using to hold things together is at the end of its days. What was once packed into a neat, comfortable little bundle is now bursting at the seams. Schedules and events are bumping into each other. Lunches and conference calls are vying for time. And now someone has the gall to try and shove more stuff into my pack. My well-shaped rubber band is about to blow, all its flexibility suddenly spent, and it all seemed to happen overnight while I was sleeping.

There’s a name for this phenomenon, this season of the year. We call it “back to school.”

After months of settling into a nice, easy-going Summer schedule of baseball games and visits to the pool, now we get to climb out of bed earlier, drop the kids off at school, pay the bills, rush to work, and try not to spill our coffee on our shirt in the process. The kids are screaming about eating Corn Flakes instead of Fruit Loops, our boss is somehow confused about why it’s suddenly so difficult for us to get to work on time (even though I’m pretty sure he had young children once, right?), and our spouse is begging for one-on-one time – “Just us, honey…no kids, no school, no work…doesn’t that sound nice?”

Sure it sounds nice. Seemingly impossible – even mythical – and something we’re pretty sure only really existed in rumor and altered memories…but nice all the same.

So what happened? How did our lives suddenly become so difficult? Is it the rubber band that’s to blame, or the stuff we keep trying to cram inside it?

As I write this, a metaphor comes to mind:

“No one puts new wine into old wineskins, or else the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed.  But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.” Luke 5:37-38

Often times in life, when we encounter a season of change, we instinctually cling to a pattern or “way of life” that’s been working for us. When we feel stressed or stretched thin, we quickly blame the number of things in our lives and rarely look at the way we approach our lives at all. The answer seems so simple. “We’re just trying to do too much. We have to drop something. Something has to go.”

The reality is that sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where nothing can go and everything is important. There are times in life when the problem is not the stuff in our bundles but rather the way our bundles are packed and the obsolete method we’re using to hold it all together. What worked when our children were six and eight years old doesn’t necessarily work when they’re fifteen and seventeen. What seemed to keep things moving when one spouse worked and the other was in school doesn’t necessarily do the job when both have careers.

Sometimes we just have to change the rubber band.

This month, as the kids adjust to their new schedules and locker assignments, instead of asking yourself “What can go?,” take a moment to sit down with your spouse and ask yourselves “What can change?” What assumptions need to be questioned? Are you trying to pour new wine into old, bent out of shape wineskins?

Maybe the answer is as simple as a schedule change – or just a schedule period. Maybe it’s about role swapping or task assignments. Does she always have to be the one to put the children to bed? Is taking out the trash really something only he can do?

Or maybe it’s more complicated than that. Is your life philosophy really working for you? Is it working for your spouse? Are you and your spouse even on the same page? What would it look like if you both started pulling in the same direction?

This is not an easy discussion, I know. Changing how we approach life is always more difficult in the beginning – like the first week you gave up caffeine – but maybe it will help if we think of it a bit differently.

Tonight, when you lay your head down on your pillow and fall restlessly to sleep…what if a miracle happened? What if, by some act of God, all those schedules and tasks and challenges and obstacles…what if they all fell into place? What if everything worked together all as it should, in the same home, in the same day, in the same week? It happened overnight while you slept, and you couldn’t explain how it happened or who was responsible, but it definitely happened.

Now ask yourself these questions:

What is the first thing – the very first, small little thing – you notice that shows you that life is different? What is the first clue telling you that things are better?

What clue does your spouse notice? Are they the same? Are they different? Are either of you surprised by your answers?

When you have the answers to those questions, answering the question “What can change?” comes a bit easier.

–          Kevin Reynolds, MS, PLPC

What is your story?

Monday, June 4th, 2012

What has happened to you? What is your story? If the things that have happened to you have led you to feel that you need to share your story and you have considered counseling however you haven’t done so yet, what is holding you back? The reasons people come to counseling very greatly with each individual. In some families, things have happened that seemed so shameful it is very difficult to share them with another person. It may be some type of abuse that has interrupted your ability to become the person you were meant to be. You may have had a somewhat “normal” childhood however other events in your life have caused you to feel anxious or down on most days. You may feel as though you are just going through the motions of living without really enjoying your life. You may feel as though no one could possibly understand the difficulties you have faced. That is true! No one can know what it is like to be you. Your life experiences, good and bad, have shaped you into the person you are today. The choices you have made also shape your path in life. Some of those choices won’t matter too much, however other choices have had a significant effect on your life. If you have considered counseling, it takes a lot to encourage to make the first appointment that will lead to sharing your story. Sometimes counseling is needed so that you can be guided toward being the person that you were meant to be and living the life that you were meant to have. There are many caring people here that are strong enough to hear your story and make certain that it remains confidential.

Dee Boatright, MS, LPC, NCC

Memorial Day: A Soldier’s Struggle

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Memorial Day: A Soldier’s Struggle

LaDawn Hathaway, MS, PLPC

Provisional Licensed Professional Counselor

 

The last Monday in May is a date that we all learn about in school. It signifies the one day each year that is dedicated to remembering not only those who have given their life in combat but also those who have returned. We honor the fallen by placing flowers on their graves and flying our nations flag. For those who have returned home, we have parades and celebrate the commitment they have given to us and our country.  Some soldier’s tell stories of friendships that will last for life while other’s sadly relive horror’s witnessed during combat. With sad eyes and heavy hearts, they remember the fate of those that were lost. For most of us, this will be the only day we concern ourselves with what our soldiers have done for our country. But for many of our soldiers, the memories of combat are a daily nightmare. A nightmare that becomes so intense that it affects not only their lives but the lives of their families.

This nightmare has a name: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is an anxiety disorder which can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic or terrifying event in which serious physical harm either occurred or was threatened. PTSD is a chronic result of trauma such as physical or sexual assault, the unexpected death of a love one, an accident, natural disaster, or war. Most people have some residual fear, anxiety, or feelings of disconnect from friends or family members after having faced something traumatic. What makes PTSD different is that these feeling do not go away. The memories of the event do not fade, the anxiety increases, and nightmares become worse. The emotions and thoughts of the tragedy become so overwhelming that it can begin to affect every part of one’s life. Some lose their jobs, their families, or both.

For a complete list of signs and symptoms of PTSD, please visit: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/pages/dsm-iv-tr-ptsd.asp. If you have a loved one who may have symptoms of PTSD, encourage them to seek treatment from a licensed therapist or doctor. If you are the loved one of someone suffering from PTSD, seek treatment and support for yourself.

Thanks you to all who have served our country!

Ever Wondered If Counseling Would Be Helpful to You?

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Ever Wondered If Counseling Would Be Helpful to You?

 

By J.J. Hight, MS, EdS, NCC

Licensed Professional Counselor

 

Have you ever thought about going to talk to a counselor? Have you ever wondered if a therapist might provide you some support or direction in dealing with a difficult situation? Maybe you’ve seen an episode of Dr. Phil and thought, “Hmm, I wonder if that therapy stuff really can help people like me?” 

Many times people are intimidated to make the initial phone call to begin counseling out of fear or confusion regarding what counseling (or the counselor) will be like. Most of us are hesitant to reach out to someone whom we know nothing about and share with them what are often very personal or sensitive aspects of our lives.  We question whether that person will be able to understand our situation or whether they will view us in a negative light because of the difficulties we’re experiencing. None of us want to be lectured or made to feel worse than we already feel over our current predicament and that’s not what counseling should be about. Counseling IS about helping people with their struggles with living life through the interaction between a client and a trained professional.

Let’s face it, no one begins counseling because their life is going so well that they just HAVE to share the joyous news of how wonderful everything is with a complete stranger.  The specific reasons that people come to counseling are as varied as the people themselves, but the thing that everyone has in common is a desire to find a different way to deal with a life situation which is causing them pain, anxiety, frustration, confusion, fear, anger, or all of the above. But whatever the reason, it is the first step toward gaining support, direction, insight and ideally some closure with whatever your current struggle.

I frequently tell people that counselors are no different than any other group of individuals; they each have their own personality and professional style and no two are just exactly alike. So do a little research, chose one that seems like someone you could relate to and meet with them. Most people can tell by the first or second appointment if this is going to be a person in which you will feel comfortable working with.  If not, it’s not a big deal, simply choose another and try again. Even if you have to consult with several different clinicians before you find the one that “fits”, that is okay, it is crucial to the process of counseling that you find a professional you believe you can confide in, trust and feel comfortable with.

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, so if counseling sounds like something that might be helpful to you, there is no better time than now to start the process of living a happier, healthier life.    

 

VOLUNTEERISM- Is Giving Better Than Receiving?

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

The willingness of volunteering your time or talent for something you believe in can benefit you in more ways than you can imagine.  Our community has many worthwhile opportunities ranging from charitable, educational, spiritual, humanitarian and environmental activities to name a few.  It is part of our nature as human beings to search for meaning and purpose in our lives.  When we feel good our thinking becomes more creative, flexible and open.  Volunteering often improves our sense of wellbeing which can enhance our feelings of hopefulness, happiness and self-worth.

Helping others has a healing power for us as well as the individuals and community we serve.  Volunteering can provide a healthy distraction from our own problems, help us to become more physically active and enhance our social connections to others.  The value of positive emotions may protect us or distract us from negative ones.  When our mood is improved so is our resilience to illness both physical and emotional.

Whether you are striving to improve your mood, your relationships or have higher satisfaction in life volunteering provides an opportunity to improve your skill development, competence and belief in your ability to succeed.

Things to consider before you sign up:

  1. Be thoughtful and realistic about the time you have available to give.  Volunteering is a         commitment and should not replace other priorities in your life.
  2. Carefully evaluate what needs or expectations you have regarding your volunteer experience.
  3. Consider your skills and strengths when choosing where to volunteer in order to have the best fit for you.

National Volunteer Week is April 15-21.  If you would like information regarding volunteer opportunities in our community you can contact United Way call center by dialing 2-1-1 in the Joplin area or (800)-427-4626.  You can also log on to www.211missouri.org.

 

Cynthia Campbell MSW, LCSW

Thoughts on Relationships

Monday, January 30th, 2012

What is it that goes through our minds and hearts during the month of February?  For most of us, we once again begin to think about Valentine’s Day.  For some, this means planning a special night out for our partner; for others it may be a time of assessing  our love life.  Wherever you are emotionally at this time of year, I would like to send out a reminder that healthy relationships are sometimes hard work and often begin with self improvement.

For most of us, as we consider relationships we tend to think of them as something that should bring us joy, peace, and relaxation.  This of course IS true, but we often forget that the best things in life come as a result of some work on our part.  Hopefully, most of us come to realize that the only person we can change on this earth is guess who?  That’s right…ourselves.  We have control over no one but ourselves.  When we finally accept this truth, we for the first time begin to realize that change begins internally.  Sometimes this might mean ending an unhealthy relationship.  Other times this might mean making  healthier choices within our relationships.  When I counsel couples, I often begin with assessing individuals’ love for themselves, as most of us in the counseling field know that without loving ourselves, we are certainly not going to find happiness through another person.  Sure, we may do so temporarily but it typically will not last.  Instead, we come to realize that no one person on this earth can meet all of our needs or fulfill all of our dreams.  We learn that a healthy relationship is a process of yes, receiving love from another but also in giving from ourselves as well.  Therefore, in beginning the quest of improving a relationship, I challenge you to begin with yourself.  Often, when we begin to make changes within, we begin to notice others around us making changes as well.  Consider the following three tips: 

  1.         Learn to empathize:  empathy is simply the process of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes…truly seek to understand others
  2.        Learn that the message sent is not always the message received by another…seek to improve your communication
  3.        Practice stress management daily,  for as you improve your own happiness you in turn effect the happiness within your relationships…seek daily to exercise, practice mindfulness, learn the art of meditation

Rob Taylor, MS, LPC

Happily Ever After

Monday, October 17th, 2011

This is the time of year that people start thinking about flowers, warmer weather, being outside and weddings. June is traditionally known as the wedding month. This is truly an exciting time for those who are hopelessly in love and thinking about “happily ever after”. When a couple is preparing for marriage they often hear about divorce statistics and single parent homes. They are convinced, however, that they will beat the odds and show everyone how strong their love is.
Those of us who work with couples know that “happily ever after” isn’t so easy. That strong, unwavering love that is present on their wedding day is often tested with the many trials that are faced. Children, finances, in-laws, religion, discipline, intimacy, and work related issues are often reported as the main stressors that lead to divorce. How is it that some couples are able to deal with these and other matters successfully while others are not?
We are told that we can find that perfect person for us that will complete us and make us okay. We get this message from movies, songs, books, and even from some professionals who work with couples. The truth is that no one can make us happy if we are not happy with ourselves and truly know who we are. If we are depending on someone else to provide our happiness we will eventually end up feeling empty, hurt, disappointed and angry. The best thing someone can do to improve their chances of not being a divorce statistic is to work on knowing their “self”. If a person has a very fragile sense of self, they are unable to meet the needs of others. Understanding any wounded parts of you and learning to love and accept them will allow you to not be so fragile and to be in a relationship with someone else in a healthier way. You will not need them to feel happy and they will not feel pressure to “fix” you or be everything to you.
There are some other basic concepts that I feel are important for a strong, healthy relationship/marriage. I tell couples that I work with that they cannot afford to be the cause of their spouses’ pain. There is enough pain and adversity to overcome in our world and we do not need it from our spouse. It is also important to give your spouse the respect that you want and that you give to others. We often take for granted those closest to us and put them on the “back burner” or give them what is left over. We talk to them in ways we would not talk to our worst enemy yet we don’t recognize that this does damage to our relationship.
Many couples come to counseling when one or both already feel disconnected and are ready for divorce. They forgot their vows and are feeling anything but love. Repeated hurts and disappointments have created walls and distance between them and they don’t know how to change it. In fact, they often don’t believe it can change. They are no longer on the same team and are pulling on the rope in opposite directions. They are ready to give up and be a statistic.
If couples are able to identify and meet the top three to five needs of their spouse, they are significantly happier than when they were meeting two or less of their needs. If couples experience the aforementioned stressors and are unable to successfully navigate through them, they will hurt each other and build walls. Their focus shifts from pleasing the other person to protecting their “fragile sense of self” and it is nearly impossible to meet their spouses’ needs.
For those anticipating all the joy and excitement of an upcoming wedding, I encourage you to consider expending some time and energy on strengthening your sense of “self” along with communicating with your future spouse about the typical stressors that you will likely face. For those who are already married I encourage you to care enough about yourselves and your marriage to take the time to learn how to heal and love yourself. Hence, you can have a strong sense of self so that you will not have to put walls up and you can enjoy meeting your spouses’ needs and trusting them so that they can meet your needs too.

-Deanna Street, MA, LPC, NCC

Our Thoughts Can Control Our Emotions?

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Have you ever been sitting in the recliner in your living room and started to daydream about the time when your boss pointed out something you did wrong in front of all your coworkers and you felt your blood begin to boil and your palms get sweaty the same way they did while the incident was actually happening? Have you ever been driving in your car and remembered the joke your daughter told you last week and it made you laugh out loud and warmed your heart? Have you ever laid in bed at night running a scenario again and again through your head, creating so much worry that you were unable to sleep? Our thoughts have power over our emotions.

A common method of working with mental health issues, for instance, issues such as depression and anxiety, is working with our thoughts. If you are struggling with something, a first step may be noticing what kinds of thoughts are running through your head without you really paying attention. Are you constantly criticizing yourself? Are you creating worst-case scenarios and then believing them to be true? Are you assuming you know someone else’s motives for doing something? What kinds of thoughts are bringing you down? Once you notice them, you can begin to try to change your thought processes. Now, this won’t be easy. You see, our thoughts are a habit, and habits are hard to break; it takes intentional effort. A way to start is by coming up with what is called a “coping thought” or something you would like to start thinking instead. For example, if I was always criticizing myself, I would take a hard look at things I am good at and create a coping thought centered around those things, such as, “I am a good wife and friend. I am capable of handling whatever comes my way.” Then, when I catch myself being self-critical, I can tell myself to stop (or, more accurately, “STOP!!”) and repeat my coping thought, which can alter my emotional response. Instead of ending up feeling down on myself, I can end up feeling comforted by the things I know I am good at doing.

In another example, I may notice that I always “mind read” and assume I know someone else’s motives for doing something. It may happen while I’m standing in line at the store and the person with the big basket of groceries pulls in the line a second before me, when in my hand is only one gallon of milk. I might think to myself, “That person is trying to drive me crazy! Can’t they see I only have one item? What a selfish jerk!” and anger begins to flare. Instead, when I begin that train of thought, I can think “STOP!!” and refer to my coping thought, “I do not know what that person is thinking. Something else could be going on in their life that I cannot see. I only have power over my own actions and no one else’s.” Instead of ending up feeling angry for the rest of the day, I can leave the store calm and under control.

These are just a couple examples of how changing our thoughts can alter our emotional response. Try noticing your internal dialogue next week. I think you’ll be surprised at what you discover about yourself, and how empowered you will feel to know you can have some control over your emotions.

-Sarah Neldeberg, MS, NCC, PLPC

Breaking the Stigma of Mental Illness

Monday, October 17th, 2011

I had considered it important to address the stigma of mental illness and the stigma related to the treatment of these illnesses. Even those of us that suffer from various mental illnesses and in varying degrees find it hard not to judge ourselves and deny its severity. Some of us are still embarrassed to seek help for many reasons.

While throwing around ideas I came across a website that covers this very subject! Why recreate the wheel, right? So please take the time to visit this website and see what others are doing about fighting the unnecessary fear and shame. Maybe this will get everyone thinking and someday, you and I will no longer be embarrassed, ashamed or afraid to admit we have something going on and that does not make us different from anyone else.

Check out bringchange2mind.org. Let us know what you think.

Back to School Fears and Anxieties

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Back to School Fears and Anxieties

The thought of going back to school can bring on a variety of emotions. Some children may be excited and actually look forward to seeing friends, having structure, a routine and starting sports or other activities. Others may be less enthusiastic about returning to school and having the stress of a schedule and homework. While many kids are not looking forward to school starting, some kids are actually experiencing anxiety and fear about returning to school. As a parent how can you know if the anxieties are normal or if they represent a more serious problem? Some children will talk about their anxiety or fears while others may keep it bottled up inside. A child’s anxiety may stem from concerns about being able to “measure up” to the other kids academically or about making new friends, fitting in, or facing bullies. These fears and concerns can create anxiety even for well-adjusted confident children. It is important to listen and take seriously the concerns of your child and help them to overcome their fears. Most fears and anxieties can be overcome by having your child talk about their feelings and helping them to put things into perspective. If their anxiety persists for several weeks or they refuse to go to school they may benefit from seeing a professional to help them cope with their anxiety.

A child who is experiencing anxiety about school may not directly tell you. We recommend that you talk with your child about how they feel about school starting and ask them open ended questions that will require more than just a yes or no response. They may experience physical symptoms such as stomach aches, headaches, sleep problems or nightmares. Talking to your child about their feelings about school starting can help ease their anxiety and can be an opportunity to build their inner strength and confidence. If a parent also has anxiety about their child going off to school the child will pick up on this and take their cues from the parent and exhibit anxiety too. Children are like emotional sponges and absorb parental emotions and cope with situations or emotions much like they see their parents cope. To help ease both yours and your child’s fears, there are several things you can do. You can visit the child’s school before school starts and meet their teacher and get familiar with their classroom, lunch room, library and other places in the school that your child will be. You can shop for their school supplies together and use that time to talk to them about their expectations for school. If you know other children who will be in their class you can try to connect with them prior to school starting so that they can see a familiar face when school starts. You can also ask your child if they have heard stories about what school is like from older children. This is important because older kids will often tell horror stories about certain teachers or experiences they had or may even take pleasure in frightening them by making up things.

There are typically different fears at different age levels. For really young children starting school they may worry about what they will be expected to know or how fast they will need to learn things. Some kids may even worry about being able to go to the bathroom when they need to. They are adjusting to being away from home and primary caregivers, nap time and new teachers. Asking them questions about these issues may give them an opportunity to voice these concerns and not let the anxiety get out of control.

As kids go on to middle school their fears take on a different nature. They tend to be more concerned about changing classrooms, lockers, having the right clothes, clicks and weight issues. The biggest fear for this age group is often about fitting in and how to deal with peer pressure. A serious and unfortunate issue that affects many children in schools today is being bullied by another child. If you suspect that your child is being bullied or could possibly be bullying other children you need to address the issue with the school as soon as possible. Some of these situations can quickly escalate and it is critical to stop it before it goes too far. Again, talking to them about what their fears are will help you find ways to alleviate the anxiety. For example, if they are concerned about opening a combination lock or remembering the combination, you could get a combination lock in advance and let them practice opening it. Or you could even help them practice how they might respond to someone bullying them or making fun of them.

High school brings additional pressures for many children. They are often more concerned about dating issues, fitting in and developing their identity. They may also feel additional pressure to perform academically as they prepare for college and life after high school. Teens are more likely to talk to their friends than to their parents so this is a time when parents need to work extra hard to try to get their teens to talk. Open ended questions are the best way to get them to respond however they may still be reluctant to share their inner fears and anxieties. We suggest that you watch for signs that their anxiety may be beyond “typical concerns”. If you suspect that they are suffering from more intense anxiety than what most other children are experiencing, you may want to consider seeking some professional help. If you find yourself saying that your child is acting in an uncharacteristic way, trust your instinct. Signs that your teen may be experiencing significant anxiety or depression are: change in academic performance, loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed, change of friends, change in behavior or attitude, increased irritability or aggressive behavior, or withdrawal from family or friends.

In sum, while some feelings of apprehension can be normal for children starting school or going to a new school, extreme anxiety should not be ignored. Trust your parental instinct and talk to your child about their concerns. If anxiety persists or intensifies you may want to explore counseling options. There is a quick reference following that may help you identify more significant signs of anxiety.

An anxious child or teen may:

o be exceptionally well behaved i.e. never in trouble at school or when in the company of others, but not necessarily at home.
o often ask many unnecessary questions and require constant reassurance.
o get upset when a mistake is made or if there is a change of routine such as sports day, substitute teacher, unexpected visitors or trip to unfamiliar place.
o be a loner or restrict themselves to a small group of safe people (who may be younger or older).
o often hesitate to answer questions and rarely volunteer comments or information.
o become sick when performances are necessary (may even be absent from school).
o have poor social skills or refuse to participate in social activities, including other children’s birthday parties.
o have difficulty separating from parents.
o be clingy with a parent or loved one in situations outside home.
o express worries about ‘bad things’ happening.
o have worries about school at the beginning of each term or perhaps each Monday.
o avoid unfamiliar situations, become sick, not turn up or endure situations with significant distress.
o become distressed if a particular friend is not at school.
o often ask questions which begin with “what if….?”.
o be perfectionist, taking excessive time to complete homework because they try to get it absolutely correct.
o have difficulty sleeping, taking a long time to get to sleep or waking during the night and needing comfort from parents (it is not uncommon for them to sleep in their parents’ bedroom).
o experience regular headaches or stomach aches that have no medical cause.
o be argumentative (but rarely aggressive), especially if trying to avoid a feared situation.
o be pessimistic and easily able to identify what may go wrong in any given situation.

Who is this child and why are they calling me?

Monday, October 17th, 2011

By: Aimee Golden, Ed.S, NCC, LPC

We have all been guilty of it. Watching our child have a meltdown in the middle of Wal-Mart or our favorite restaurant and considering, even for one minute, to either leave them there or act like we don’t know them. However, sometimes kids seem to have more meltdowns and shouting matches than not. So often, I hear parents in my office say, “What is wrong with my child and why is he/she behaving this way?” As a therapist, the answer to this question is simple: Because they want to. The most important thing I recommend to parents is to determine how much of their child’s behavior is age appropriate and how much of it goes above and beyond. This simple self-check helps us realize that not every misbehavior and disobedience is a direct attack on us and our abilities as parents.

What is normal behavior for my child?
Normal behavior in children depends on the child’s age, personality, and physical and emotional development. A child’s behavior may be a problem if it doesn’t match the expectations of the family or if it is disruptive. Normal or “good” behavior is usually determined by whether it’s socially, culturally and developmentally appropriate. Knowing what to expect from your child at each age will help you decide whether his or her behavior is normal. Therefore, I suggest every parent research psychological and emotional development from resources in the community, such as Parents as Teachers.

How can I change my child’s misbehavior?
I cannot stress this enough. Every child craves and seeks out attention, regardless of whether it is positive or negative. In the absence of positive attention from a parent or caregiver, a child will act out and misbehave to get attention, even if this results in discipline and consequences. Therefore, children will continue to do a behavior when is it rewarded, by getting your attention, and stop it when it is ignored. The key is being consistent in your reaction to a behavior because rewarding and punishing the same behavior is confusing to your child. When your child’s behavior is a problem, you have three choices:

 Decided that the behavior is not a problem because it is appropriate to the child’s age and stage of development.
 Attempt to stop the behavior, either by ignoring it or punishing it.
 Introduce a new behavior that you prefer and reinforce it by rewarding your child.

There are two important things to remember while trying to modify your child’s behavior. First, it takes at least 30 days to change a single behavior using a single, consistent method. Second, it will get worse before it gets better because your child has been able to push your past your limits before now and they think they will find your breaking point now.

The Purpose of Counseling
My goal is to teach parents and work as a coach, while you learn new and alternative methods of interacting with your child to achieve a decrease in undesirable and problematic behaviors. I have worked with parents for several years establishing a structured behavior modification program that helps parents discipline their children and set forth a consistent discipline program required to change behaviors. Please call our office if you feel that you and your family need some additional help and support. It is our job as parents to provide for the needs of our children and advocate for them in any way we can. If not us, who?

Final Thought:

If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with fear, he learns to be apprehensive.
If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement he learns to be confident.
If a child lives with acceptance, he learns to love.
If a child lives with recognition, he learns it is good to have a goal.
If a child lives with honesty he learns what truth is.
If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.
If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith in himself and those about him.
If a child lives with friendliness, he learns the world is a nice place in which to live to love and be loved.

Anonymous

Making Marriage a Priority

Friday, October 14th, 2011

There are many factors that go into a good marriage. While there are many different issues within a given marriage, there are common threads that run through all marriages. These common threads are the topic in this segment of Therapist Corner. The first thread that will be discussed is the issue of prioritizing. If a couple does not have their marriage as a high priority it is hard to make it a healthy relationship. Many people will remain married even if the relationship isn’t healthy, but our goal is to make the relationship great instead of having the couples feeling like they are just “existing”. Many couples will say that their marriage is a high priority but when asked what they spend most of their time and emotional energy on, we often find that the marriage is on the back burner and is not getting the proper time that it needs to be nurtured into a great relationship. All too often one or both of the spouses are spending more time with other commitments such as work, children, extended family, friends etc. It is critical to have a balance of all areas in a marriage, but if the marriage is continually pushed low on the priority list the couple will eventually find themselves in a place where one or both are unhappy and considering a divorce. It requires a true commitment to the marriage to begin to see positive change and to allow the relationship to reach its true potential. Our goal at Counseling Associates of the Four States is to help couples change patterns of behavior and learn tools to not only prioritize their relationship, but to learn how to care for the emotional needs and well being of their spouse and their “selves”. If a couple can understand past hurts that interfere with the way they currently relate as a couple and learn ways to avoid hurting their spouse in the future, they can begin to build love, communication skills, and other key components of a healthy and happy marriage. If you or someone you know is currently experiencing relationship difficulties, we are here to help.

Search Resources

We accept