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Archive for February, 2012

Bipolar Symptoms in Children: Signs of Bipolar Disorder and Responding to Bipolar Behavior

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Parents are often terrified by the notion their child suffers from bipolar disorder and information can be difficult to find.  Bipolar disorder is a chronic brain disorder.

Bipolar Symptoms in Children

Signs of bipolar disorder may include bouts of extreme and impairing changes in mood, energy, thinking, and behavior. According to research, cases of bipolar disorder have been found in every age group studied, including preschoolers.

Recognizing Signs of Bipolar Disorder

In order to understand the behavior of children diagnosed with pediatric-onset bipolar disorder, it is important to understand stress and mood and how it manifests in signs of bipolar behavior. In response to a stimulus, our body secretes hormones activating the stress response that signals us to feel (happy, sad, afraid, surprised, angry) and behave (smile, cry, run away, jump, fight). Once the stimulus has passed or changed, our body can usually return to a state of rest. Bipolar symptoms in children may be recognized when they have difficulty returning their body to this state of rest after exposure to stimulus, and as a result often suffer from debilitating distress.

Responding to Bipolar Behavior

Parenting a child with bipolar disorder involves understanding and accommodating this state of distress. Of all bipolar symptoms in children, this needs to be the primary issue gauged by the parent. Here are some common parenting issues and suggested responses:

  1. You worry that you are not ‘parenting right.’
    Instead, remember that although parenting skills can have a protective effect on a child with bipolar behavior, there is no cure for bipolar disorder.
  2. You feel your own temper rising.
    Avoid emotional responses that escalate the situation. With younger children, learn ‘safe but firm’ restraints to avoid injury.
  3. You respond critically to your child for things out of her control: “This wouldn’t have happened if you had only stopped to think!”
    Don’t punish biology. Take time away from your child and develop natural logical consequences for actions committed as a result of bipolar behavior. Enforce them consistently.
  4. You try to do it alone.
    Bipolar symptoms in children is challenging for the best parents. Ask for help.

Resources: The Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation at www.bpkids.org, and http://www.bipolarchild.com

Marriage After an Affair: Ending an Affair and Beginning Marriage and Family Counseling

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

An affair is survivable. Millions of couples choose to stay together for many reasons. More often than not there is still love and a longing for the marriage to continue and this is what brings couples to marriage and family counseling. Therapy, along with the couple’s determination, can help a marriage after an affair not only survive the affair but also thrive and become the marriage for which both have always longed.

Therapy following an affair consists of helping the couple through three phases: ending the affair, complete transparency, and forgiveness.

First, the affair must end. Ending an affair has to be not only an ending for the partner who conducted the affair, but also an ending that satisfies the partner who did not have the affair. Because of this it is important that both partners have a role. For example the partner who had the affair may write an ending letter to the person he or she became involved with and the partner who did not have the affair will mail it. This display of togetherness may help them become a team again.

In order for the marriage to begin the journey toward the couple becoming united again after ending an affair, the partner who had the affair must commit to complete transparency. Nothing can be off limits. Cell phones, computer passwords, and email accounts must always be available without hesitation for inspection when requested. Every question, no matter how painful, must be answered with humility.

The final step the couple must take is forgiveness. The betrayed partner must forgive the betraying partner, and the betraying partner must forgive him/herself. This last step is not something that happens on a particular date. Rather it is a journey that the couple will travel every day, and a journey where having access to the guidance of a marriage and family counseling therapist can be most helpful. With the help of marriage and family counseling couples can execute these three steps, survive the affair, and achieve the marriage of their dreams.

Affairs: Can a Marriage Recover?

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

An affair strikes a devastating blow to a marriage. Whether the affair was a one-night stand, an emotional affair, or an illicit affair – an emotional affair combined with a physical relationship – the effects of having affairs can be long lasting.

Why it Happens

How does a marriage become the victim of an affair? Before the dynamics can be explored, it is important to understand that one partner cannot cause the other to have an affair. The decision to go outside the marriage to meet physical and emotional needs is just that, a decision. A spouse who feels his or her partner has become physically or emotionally unavailable may begin to depend on people or things outside the marriage to alleviate feelings of distress. A husband may decide to put in more hours at work where he can feel successful and appreciated. A wife may devote more time and energy to the kids because they help her feel loved and needed. When partners become accustomed to turning to things or people outside the marital dyad in times of distress they may become candidates for having affairs of one kind or the other.

Emotional Affairs Just As Harmful

Emotional affairs are incredibly insidious because they seem so harmless. Emotional affairs usually begin as a simple friendship. Sharing intimate details about marital distress or keeping secrets from spouses are signs that the friendship may be crossing the line. In the age of social media and texting, emotional affairs are prevalent as spouses feel emboldened by the anonymity of cyberspace to flirt and fantasize with online friends and coworkers.

Surviving Both the Emotional and the Illicit Affair

All-too-common emotional affairs, just as much as the illicit affair, can be devastating, but all types of affairs are survivable. One resource I highly recommend is Harley’s Surviving An Affair. Also, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist can help spouses dealing with this issue walk through the steps of honesty and transparency and achieve forgiveness, acceptance, and hope.

Does Marriage Counseling Work?

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

In our marriage counseling Houston area practice, the following is a generalized scenario our couples often articulate as a common experience that led them to marriage and family therapy:

Dirk finished the last of his paperwork when he heard Dee climb into bed and switch off the light. “Oh great,” he thought. “I forgot how late it was and she’s going to be angry. Again.” He pushed his chair back from his desk and headed toward their bedroom.

Honey?” he asked, realizing it was probably too late but he should try anyway, “you asleep yet?”

“Let’s see,” Dee began, her stomach already aching from the knots twisting away at her insides, “I’ve managed two carpools today, three doctor’s appointments, and cooked dinner for five, so I’m a little tired. Why? Do you need something?”

“No, no. Just hoping you missed me.” Dirk feared he was not hiding his simmering anger very well. Lately Dee had been doing everything for everyone. Everyone except him of course.

“Miss you?” Dee shot out from under the covers and switched on the light. “I never even see you anymore! The kids live for the weekends with you, but I don’t even have that!”

Dick thought, “Here we go with the ‘you work too much,’ and ‘you never have time for me.’ Well what was he supposed to do? Let them all starve? He was tired and these arguments never ended up anywhere anyway. Angrily he shut the door and went back to his office and got back on his computer.

What can this couple do to save their marriage? Their family?  Is this a situation that calls for this couple to consider involvement into marriage and family counseling programs, and really, does marriage counseling work?

Marriage and family therapy programs are core mental health specialization programs. Marriage and family therapists provide couples and families with the help they need to navigate difficult life cycle stages and make positive changes to the way they communicate with one another. If therapy is a good fit for you, schedule an initial appointment. With persistence and help from your therapist you may see the changes you have been waiting for.

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