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Posts Tagged ‘family therapy’

Two Parenting Mistakes and Time Management

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Nobody’s perfect. In an age of two working parents, single parent homes, co-parenting, blended families, and just plain normal moms and dads doing the best they can, mistakes will be made.
Mistake number one: Too tired to parent.

This is probably our oldest parenting mistake. Back in ‘the day,’ parenting after a long day hunting and gathering probably looked more like an episode of ‘Survivor’ rather than ‘The Waltons.’ Older siblings were put in charge of younger siblings, children who could prepare food were put to work, while Mom and Dad protected the clan from predatory animals and neighbors. In true Darwinian fashion, children who did not conform to family norms probably did not survive.

Today, well-meaning, tired, parents know they should not ignore misbehavior, yet sometimes it’s just easier to allow the TV and the PlayStation to do their job. Tantrums are met with concessions. Children learn to act rather than ask permission because they know consequences from tired parents can be negotiated away through whining, manipulation, persistence, and even good behavior.

This leads us to mistake number two: I can’t keep up the consequence because now he’s being so good (washing my car, vacuuming, setting the table)! Time off for good behavior only works in prison. In the home, children are in charge of their behavior choices, and parents are in charge of the consequences. If children are permitted to choose the behavior AND manipulate the consequences by acting ‘good’, this can lead to power struggles, confusion, and more manipulation. Kids soon learn tired parents crave love and happiness (and a clean car) and they’ll do anything, including shorten a punishment, if their child rewards them with good behavior and attitudes.

Parenting is not for the faint-hearted and perfection is a myth. Always keep an eye out for good parenting tips and do your best!

Drug Use Among Teenagers

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

The pronouns ‘he’ and ‘she’ are alternated for brevity.

When parents are struggling with their teen using drugs or alcohol, they may choose therapy as an option. After the initial relief, however, comes the surprise at the amount of work placed squarely on their shoulders.

When a therapist specially trained to work with teens who are using initially meets with parents, he has one goal in mind: learn the family rules. This may take several sessions, but it is vital for the therapist to learn what is permitted in the home (respect, compensation for chores, doors locked/unlocked) and what is not permitted (eye-rolling, substance use, failing grades). If the therapist is confused by the rules, it is likely the teen is also.

Next the therapist will ask the parents to identify and prioritize two or three behaviors they wish to change. Of course using drugs or alcohol is the primary symptom, but typically grades, curfew, and respectful behaviors are identified as well. The list is kept short to maximize effort and success.

Finally, the therapist will need to know how the parents plan to ‘parent’ the identified behaviors (design and enforce consequences). This is important because not only must parents have a plan for the other six days their child is not in therapy, their influence must increase while the therapist’s decreases. Failure to do this could lead to the therapist becoming the ‘influential figure’ in the family (“didn’t the therapist tell you drinking was wrong?”) and this will lead to therapy becoming the consequence rather than the place for help and healing.

Leaving a session with a therapist trained to help teens who are using may leave parents confused. The hard work will pay off, though, and parents will have tools to help them help their child be successful, and drug and alcohol free.

 

Compassion Fatigue: Seeking a Caregiver Support Group and PTSD Support

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

What does a caregiver have in common with a soldier, firefighter, and doctor? Compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue (CF) stems from the daily sustained amount of compassion and energy required when caring for an individual with special needs or a chronic health condition.

Symptoms of CF can be similar to the signs of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and may erupt as caregivers begin to absorb pain from the individuals they are caring for. Mental health symptoms such as anger, fatigue, depression, anxiety, loss of joy, and hopelessness are common. This is detrimental to both parties and ultimately deteriorates the quality of care being provided. Ultimately the caregivers may need the same kind of PTSD support.

We know self-care benefits caregivers but many times caregivers neglect their health and ignore the early warning signs of CF. As they push themselves to maintain the strength to forever care for their loved one, a superhuman mentality prevails and self care takes a backseat. This may lead not only to the symptoms of CF but also relationships issues.

As the mother of a young child with special needs, I know first-hand self care is critical in maintaining longevity as a caretaker. The first step is awareness. If you are uninformed about CF you may not understand the behaviors you must change and the ramifications if you do not. The second step is to re-train your thoughts about self-care. It is not selfish to refuel yourself as you care for your child. Think about the flight attendant telling you to put your oxygen mask on first – if you are not OK you cannot help your child.

The third step is to retrain your behavior as you retrain your thoughts. Simply stated one must exercise, connect with other grown-ups, talk, cry, journal, meditate, dance, eat healthy, sing, take a warm bath, pick flowers, doodle, pray, and most importantly, laugh out loud. A caregiver support group may be a good outlet for sharing your experience with others. If you find you are doing these things and not gaining any pleasure or benefit, talking with a professional can help.

The Very Best You

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Everyone has buddies and relatives whom we love. Not only do we care deeply about them, we think a lot about what we will be able to give them. These emotions and thoughts are crucial! There’s a point, nevertheless, when giving might be negative.

The best thing you can give your loved ones is the very best you. What does that suggest? It means that you learn about yourself, how you are feeling in different situations, how your family of origin affected you for good (or not so good), how you deal with conflict, and what your wishes are. When you find out about yourself you begin to change. You can discover you are becoming as important as your mother or father. Maybe you never learned to request what you need and now you’re getting depressed due to resentment. You might even discover your intense wrath is a cover-up for your hurt. The result is that you may be good at going through the motions of giving, but the internal attitude is not so charitable because it consequently diminishes the value of your good works, thus leaving you feeling sad and alone inside. But it does not have to stay that way.

Consider Wayne* and Sandy*. Wayne and Sandy came to see me because Sandy was depressed and Wayne didn’t think he could handle it any more. As we conversed, Sandy discovered that in 27 years of marriage, she never asked for what she needed. She thought that her role as wife and mom was to only do for others!

Wayne spotted that, while he was fond of having Sandy take care of him and the children, he had become self-absorbed and disconnected from Sandy. As they gained understanding of themselves and one another, Sandy started listening to her feelings and wishes and Wayne started listening and responding. Sandy’s depression lifted and Wayne found out he was married to an interesting woman!

This is what I mean by becoming the very best you. Start today: invest in yourself, learn to love yourself, and begin making the changes you need so you can love yourself more. When you learn to love yourself more and love yourself first, everything falls into place. So the gift you can give is the gift of loving yourself. Everybody will be happy with that as a gift!

 

* Wayne and Sandy are pseudonyms and represent a host of couples who have received solutions in their marriage for matters surrounding this kind of issue.

Sue Watkins is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Sue can be found at www.SueWatkins.net.

 

“Just a stage?” Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Children, and Defiant Disorder Treatment

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

As every parent knows, kids love to use the word “no.”  It gives them a sense of power and it allows them to perceive they have some control over their endlessly rule laden lives.  While unpleasant, this is a normal part of child maturation and testing boundaries, and it is a normal part of parenthood to continue to be the boundary enforcer. But what happens when a child surpasses normal non-compliance efforts, and their unruliness becomes so severe and so consistent that the parent is unable to regain authoritative control? It may be the child’s behavior is a diagnosable condition.

So how do you know when those refusals to comply have become more than just a little stage?  There is a little known but increasingly diagnosed disorder called Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).  If your child is exhibiting the signs below it may be a signal that something more serious is going on and it’s time to contact a mental health professional about a possible ODD diagnosis.

The essential feature of Oppositional Defiant Disorder in childeren is a repeated pattern of negative behavior that is “deliberate, spiteful, and argumentative.”  This is not the preschooler who tells mom “no” to bath time or the school age kid who doesn’t want to do his homework.  This is a child or teen who, over a six month period or longer, repeatedly refuses to follow rules, argues with adults, and is easily angered.

The result is often serious disruptions at school or other social settings. ODD is usually recognized by about age 8 and can be diagnosed by early adolescence.  If not addressed, symptoms may become more confrontational and more persistent as the child enters middle school and high school. Treatments include impulse control therapy, cognitive behavioral therapies, and behavioral therapies.

So the next time your child exercises his “no” muscle, have no fear.  It is a normal part of growth and helps him mature, develop decision making skills, and become independent.  If, however, your child’s “no” has become constant, results in discipline problems at school, or appears overly intentional or directed at adults, check with your school or community counselor for a referral.  There are defiant disorder treatment options, and licensed family and parenting counselors will be able to help.

Finding the Right Therapist for Your Family

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Joanne finally picked up the home phone, realizing this was the most difficult call she had ever made. She was about to ask for help in the one area of her life that she’d thought she had held together: her family.

At the last appointment, Jake’s psychiatrist mentioned marriage and family therapy programs but she had felt too angry (or was it embarrassed?) to call for further information. After all, this was Jake’s problem, wasn’t it? How could therapy for the whole family do any good when Jake was the one causing arguments, getting in trouble at school, and sneaking out at night doing who knows what with who knows whom?  Family therapy techniques sounded so… intrusive. The therapist would probably pick apart her parenting and tell her she had done everything wrong.

So why was she finally changing her mind? Strangely enough it was because of Jake’s little sister Jenny. Yesterday afternoon, Jenny had asked, “Why are you and daddy so mad at Jake all the time?” In that moment, Joanne realized Jenny had not been immune to the turmoil surrounding their efforts to help Jake. Somehow she knew that her family could not get better if they stuck to the problem-focused idea that their only hope rested in “fixing” one person. Whether she liked it or not, this was a family problem.

Family therapy is a core mental health profession. It is brief, solution-focused, and it focuses on specific, attainable, therapeutic goals. Joanne’s decision to seek help for her family was very serious and choosing the right family therapist was important. She started with her insurance company and researched possible providers who could help. After consulting with a trusted family physician, she made the appointment.

When you decide to seek help for your family it is important to familiarize yourself with the different mental health professions. Remember, it’s okay to keep looking if your family is not making progress. Choose the professional and the family therapy center you feel the best fit so that you can receive the right help.

Communication with Teenagers: Tips for Parents

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

It has been said that being the parent of a teenager is similar to that of being a parent of a child from Mars. They look different than you, act differently from you, and speak another language. Yet the parent’s job in raising teenagers should not be neglected, but what’s a parent to do when their own teenaged child seems to be completely “alien” to them?

Communicating with teenagers doesn’t have to be that way. Remember when you were a teenager? It really isn’t too different today. The less your son or daughter tells you about their life, the more independence they feel that they have. They begin to create a new identity. It is part of the natural process of growing up.

Unfortunately, sometimes our teenage youth make poor decisions. They need your help, parents, even if they don’t ask for it. Many of the questions about life that we faced when we were young still exist in today’s youth. What am I going to do when I grow up?  Am I cool enough to be liked? How do I fit in? Am I wearing the right clothes? Why don’t my parents understand me? Does he/she really like me?

The good news about dealing with teenagers: You can help your teenage son or daughter navigate this challenging time in their life. First, it is important to make time to spend with your son or daughter every day. Whether it is doing homework, eating dinner as a family, or talking about school, making time for your child will provide a foundation of trust. Second, focus on the positives more than the negatives. Think 80% positive and 20% correction. Finally, build open lines of communication. Remember, the most important thing that your son or daughter wants is to be heard and understood by you.

Will they tell you everything that is going on in their life? No, not at first. Over time, however, you will see that your teen will trust you and confide in you.

By Jason Davis, MS, 

Jason has over 15 years of experience working with adolescents, and is passionate about helping them with problems such as bullying, depression, anxiety, anger, as well as improving interpersonal communication skills. 

 

Setting Boundaries For Teenagers While Increasing Their Freedom

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

“Sink or Swim.”

If you have teenagers you know what I am talking about. When children reach the ages of 15-17 parents begin to wonder whether or not it is time to let them make their own decisions. Parenting teenagers is not for the faint of heart.

Of course teens believe they know everything and can navigate life’s decisions on their own. With age comes wisdom, however, and parents can set boundaries for teenagers and enforce explicit rules to help teens transition away from ‘mom and dad decisions’ and learn to make good choices on their own. Here are some guidelines you may find helpful:

  • Establish non-negotiables up front.  When parenting teenagers, safety and well-being cannot be compromised. Let your teen know that behaviors such as drinking, drug use, and risky driving will not be tolerated. No exceptions.
  • Discuss rules open to compromise. Household rules such as curfews, household chores, your teen’s financial responsibilities, and homework policies, are most effective when they are established as a result of discussion with your teen. Allow natural logical consequences to follow failures to comply.
  • Pick your battles.  Clothing choices, hairstyles, music choices, and which club or sport to be a part of might be good decisions to leave up to your teen. If that weird band t-shirt or goofy hair style won’t have an adverse effect on your teen’s success, then letting go of the battle may allow her to feel in control of some aspect of her life. Understanding teenagers is to know which of their behaviors are innocent efforts of self-expression, and which ones are rooted in more troublesome activities or attitudes.

If your teen continues to struggle with the non-negotiables, gets in trouble at school, or cannot keep to the boundaries you set, it may be time to seek counseling. Family therapy and individual sessions for your teen can be an effective and safe way for your child to work through difficult issues. A trained counselor can help families work together as a unit to create rules and boundaries in a non-threatening environment.

 

Jennifer Meehan MA, LPC has worked for the last 15 years in public education and knows has experience working with students and their families in dealing with, ADD/ADHD, anger, autism, defiance, conduct disorders, and abuse. www.achievebalance.org

The “Normal Family” – What Makes a Strong Family

Saturday, April 7th, 2012

As a counselor for over 15 years, I often hear the need for a normal family. Normal is defined as conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern. The thought of a conforming teenager may appear humorous, yet the need for stability and normalcy is not. With such clients, I assess their perception of a normal family. Answers vary, but I find that strong and productive families share similar characteristics including the enforcement of rules, clear communication, and acceptance of change.

Vigorous yet happy and strong families have rules that are specific, respected by all members, and consistently enforced. Rules in the home help family members develop clear expectations, support a stable environment, and decrease the frequency of control and power struggles. What makes a strong family is when family members know where authority lies and respect the opinions of all members while also acknowledging the opportunity to negotiate and discuss any problems or family issues.

Clear communication is another contributor to strong families. Members take responsibility for their statements and respectfully communicate with others. Even though expressing thoughts and feelings involves facing certain risks – one may encounter opposition, disagreement, and hurt – these expressions are validated and welcomed in healthy families.

A third characteristic of strong families is the realization and understanding of change. Although it is human nature to resist change, strong families have a tendency to accept change and members understand the ever-present concept of change. These families have a clear understanding of developmental stages and are thus able to successfully assimilate and accommodate when change is necessary. Family members understand life stages and accept each member’s individual growth.

In conclusion, while no perfect recipe produces perfect families, a “normal family” is achieved when these important ingredients are considered and implemented. Incorporating the above characteristics is a great way to start strengthening your family relationships.

 

Tia Parsley, MEd, LPC, LCDC has experience assisting adolescents and their families with issues such as addiction, anger management, depression, anxiety, communication, parenting, and stress management. Lear more about TIa Parsley the these websites: www.achievebalance.org and www.tiaparsley.com.


Blended Family Counseling: Using the Developmental Model for Addressing Blended Family Issues

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

In order to assist blended families, counselors can use the Developmental Model by Patricia Papernow (1993) as a means to understand the specific issues that a blended family encounters. This model allows for movement back and forth through the stages of blended family counseling, since crises may precipitate movement to the earlier stages.

Papernow’s (1993) model for addressing blended family issues consists of three main stages, with substages existing within each of the major stages. The first is the Early Stage, with Fantasy, Immersion, and Awareness as the substages of this level. The second is the Middle Stage with Mobilization and Action as the substages. The third stage is called the Later Stage with Contact and Resolution as the substages.

The pace of families moving through these stages depends upon the support for the family. Faster families can move through the model in four years, but this would be the minority of families. The average blended family will take seven years to move through the stages, and they usually spend two to three years in the earlier stages. For slower families, they may spend up to four years in the earlier stages, and it may take them up to 12 years to complete the cycle. Without blended family counseling, some families may stay stuck in the earlier stages, and this can end in divorce.

The model examines the losses that all members encounter in the Early Stages and the wishes (especially of children) to return to their prior family structure. The biological relationships are stronger at this point, and stepparents are considered as outsiders. During Mobilization, all parts of the family system begin to find their voice. This leads to Action when the family decides to form a step family structure. In the final stages, the members of the blended family form meaningful relationships with one another.

Counselors can access this model to plot where the blended family may be stuck, where the loss issues are, and also what needs to happen to help this blended family function as a system.

Resource

Papernow, P. (1993). Becoming a stepfamily: Patterns of development in remarried families. Gestalt Institute of Cleveland Press.

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