Blog : Parenting

Is parenting your teen causing conflict?

Parenting teens can be very difficult!

Parenting conflicts with teens is something that most of us have joked about amongst our fellow parents. If you are raising a teen, it’s highly probable that  you’ve wanted to scream, pull your own hair out, or hide in your bedroom from the adolescent drama and ridiculousness. However, there are times when conflict with your teen can escalate to extremes that appear “beyond the norm.” This is when conflict begins to overtake your household. There is no joking about it with other parents anymore! Your household begins to feel like a crisis center with no hope of repair or resolution.

Have you considered counseling with your teen?

If you are a parent who falls into the category of “high conflict” with your teen, then it comes to no surprise that you are here reading about possible solutions. It is beneficial for parents and adolescents to utilize a therapist to help navigate through these conflicts. From these sessions, the hope is that there will be better communication and resolution for the core issues that brought you into our office. A therapist can also provide different parenting methods that may be more effective with your teen, and teach everyone new skills.  

We have qualified therapists here that are able to help.

Parenting adolescents is tough, and we know how helpful it can be to have a third party help navigate the conflict. At mental wellness, we have experience working with core teen issues, various parenting conflicts that can arise, and methods to help hurdle through adolescence. If you are interested in more information, please call our office or fill out our contact information page! 

Does my teen have a digital or internet addiction?

Does my teen have a digital or internet addiction?

Our teens live in a world that is full of screens. It can sometimes be difficult to know what is normal for digital addiction, video game addiction, social media addiction, internet addiction and what is not screen addiction?

Signs of Internet Addiction

The Center for Internet Addiction published the following:

Meeting 5 of the criteria of the Internet Addiction Diagnostic Questionnaire (IADQ) means you are addicted.

  1. Do you feel preoccupied with the Internet (think about previous online activity or anticipate next online session)?
  2. Do you feel the need to use the Internet with increasing amounts of time in order to achieve satisfaction?
  3. Have you repeatedly made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop Internet use?
  4. Do you feel restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop Internet use?
  5. Do you stay online longer than originally intended?
  6. Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of the Internet?
  7. Have you lied to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with the Internet?
  8. Do you use the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)?

Unlike alcohol and drug addiction counseling or custody evaluations, the field of internet addiction is still fairly new.

Teens and Screens What Every Parent Needs to Know

Parents and children fight, this has happened for generations. But these fights have changed over time. CNN reported that the average teen is on a device for 9 hours per day! This can lead to:

  • Failed attempts to control behavior
  • Neglecting friends and family
  • Neglecting sleep to stay online
  • Being dishonest with others
  • Feeling guilty, ashamed, anxious, or depressed as a result of online behavior
  • Weight gain or loss, backaches, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Withdrawing from other pleasurable activities

Pew Research also found that 68% of teens witness peers “stirring up drama” online and that 94% of parents underestimated the fighting online.

Trends in Digital Addiction

An October 2016 study by Piper Jaffray Group surveyed 140,000 teens and looked at 37 million data points. What they found is really interesting in looking at a shift in our culture:

  • Youtube outpaced cable
  • 58% of homes had Amazon Prime
  • Food and clothing are the only things that teens spend more on than video games
  • 80% of teens use Snapchat monthly

Thus for our kids, that feeling that “Everyone is there” is true. In fact, 61% of teens said they want to go online to see likes and comments from their friends. 36% wanted to see what their friends were doing without them. 21% wanted to make sure that no one was being mean to them online.

What Parents Should Do About Screen Addiction

There are three effective steps that every parent can do.

  1. Get informed about platforms. Understand where your kids are and what they are doing. Read about Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to be able to accurately discuss them. Don’t like and comment on your teen’s activities, it embarrasses them, it’s like giving them a big kiss in front of the school.
  2. Respect social code for teens. Don’t be overly involved with their online activity, but don’t turn a blind eye.
  3. Practice nonjudgemental conversation where you say, “Tell me more about…” Instead of “You should” or “You shouldn’t”

Many parents and teens need a mediator or counselor to help through this process. Tech can be a way to help your child find independence and growth. It can be where they appropriately begin thinking like an adult, but they need you as a guide!

Meet Traverse City Counselor Joe Sanok

digital addiction private practice consultant joe sanok headshot on stairsJoe Sanok is a licensed counselor and the owner of Mental Wellness Counseling, a Traverse City counseling practice. He specializes in helping teens and couples to navigate how to find more peace in their home.

Confronting Success

Confronting Success

It seems some people are able to find success like a dog sniffing out bacon, whereas success to others is like looking for your lost keys. In one situation, success and goal achievement is just following the scent and in another it is a haphazard and frustrating experience.

When we hear “success” we often think of it in financial terms, making more money or finding a better job. But success is more than that, it’s creating change as a parent to yell less. It is identifying dysfunctions in your relationships and taking steps to successfully become a better person. It’s about identifying change and actually seeing change occur.

People that consistently achieve success do a number of things regularly.

Make a Goal Clear

What would make an impact on your life? When we dream about an “ideal day” or being an “ideal parent” it helps us to break down the core elements of a goal. For example, “I want to be more patient with my kids.” What does that mean? How would you know you have achieved that? You might yell less, have more quality time together, and sleep better at night. These indicators help to identify what you are trying to achieve.

Use Roman Numerals

Remember when you took notes in school? You were taught to use Roman Numerals to break things down. The steps in achieving success involve not just breaking down a goal into elements, but into micro-goals. If you’re hoping to launch a business, drill into each element to have 5-10 minute steps. Make progress when you have short bursts of energy and time.

You’re Not Alone

Often we feel like we’re the first to have specific goals and ideas about success. Many people have done this before. Learn from them. Read their books, listen to their podcasts, watch documentaries about them. There are so many life hacks that people have discovered. Taking some time to research and study others is a common strategy by the most successful people.

Make Time

Goals are achieved when we make time for them. Gary Keller, a co-owner of Keller-Williams, wrote in The One Thing, “You can go one inch in twelve directions or a foot in one direction.” We need to make time for our financial, parenting, marriage, and life goals. Setting aside 15 minutes per day for a year is 91.25 hours you will have worked on your new goal!

The most successful people define their goals, break them down, learn from others, and make time to achieve success. So what happens if you don’t do this? What will you miss out on in the world? But more importantly, what will the world miss out on from you?

Meet Joe

private practice consultant joe sanok headshot on stairsJoseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed counselor and owner of Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He also works with business leaders on mindset and leveling up. His top ranking podcast is at www.PracticeofthePractice.com

Jen Kraus: Compassionate Care

The Mental Wellness Counseling “Meet the Counselors” series offers a deeper look into each counselor’s background, experiences, motivations, values, and philosophies. In this series, I put counselors on the couch to learn why and how they do what they do.

Q: How did you first get interested/involved in your particular field?

Young studentA: I became interested social work because I wanted to help kids. I often saw kids struggling in school; they needed somebody to be their advocate. As a undergraduate, I started to focus on early childhood education because I realized that early childhood was when significant changes in the family dynamic happened in order for the child to grow to be a happier, healthier adult. I also wanted to do something more clinical, so my social work has grown into my mental health work. I now work at Northern Lakes Community Mental Health as a home-based therapist. At Mental Wellness Counseling, my focus is children eight years and younger.

Q: What types of issues do you address and how?

A: Often times the people who seek my services have children who are pretty disorganized. Not every parent is going to be perfect, but when a parent makes a mistake, it’s important that they are able to make a repair. Infant mental health deals with bonding and attachment—how to increase markers of secure attachment with the primary care giver. For parents like foster parents or adoptive parents, making that connection is based upon critical education about the child’s needs. For children who have had some type of physical/sexual abuse or trauma in their past, I use trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy.

Q: What are the biggest challenges of your work?

A: Home-based therapy is very different. It’s a wonderful practice to be in the home—to see where moms and dads come from and to see children acting in their environment— but there’s a lot of unknown variables before I go into a session. For example, at one home visit, a stray dog came up, so we took care of it and found its owner. Home visits present some challenges that I may not see in an office setting.

Q: What is the most valuable advice you can offer a beginning social worker?

A: In social work, you see people who are impoverished more than affluent families. You work with people who are at a disadvantage, so it’s important to understand the culture of poverty. I think we’re often quick to judge how people in poverty spend their time and money.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about what you do?

A: I find it really rewarding when parents know that somebody else likes their child. Typically when parents seek out my service, it’s because their child is very outrageous in their behavior. Yet I have never met a child who I did not adore. Also, it’s truly remarkable to see a parent and child fall in love with each other.

Q: Overall, what is the most valuable thing you have learned from your work?

A: It helps you reframe what’s happening to give you a new perspective. For instance, when you see the way an adult is behaving, sometimes it can be really discouraging, but then when you stop to think about their experiences, you realize that they’re doing the best they possibly can. It softens you up to have better parameters of compassion.

Q: Future plans?

A: Right now I’m looking to get my full license and become nationally certified in trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy. I would also like to expand my play therapy and theraplay techniques. There are a lot of things I’m still interested in learning and doing.

Traverse City counselor Jen
Jen Kraus, LLMSW

Click here to learn more about Jen or to schedule an appointment.

Want to schedule an intake? Click here.

Sarah Hubbell: Tackling Trauma and Teenagers

The Mental Wellness Counseling “Meet the Counselors” series offers a deeper look into each counselor’s background, experiences, motivations, values, and philosophies. In this series, I put counselors on the couch to learn why and how they do what they do.

Talent for Teens

When she was just twelve years old, Sarah Hubbell helped guide fellow youngsters down the slopes of Crystal Mountain. To this day, she still enjoys skiing, snowboarding, and working with children and teens. “I’ve always been drawn to the middle and high school ages because there’s so much drama. I was a teenager once too; I remember all the drama,” Hubbell said. “I like helping others understand teenagers. A lot of people are afraid to work with teens because they are hard to understand. They can be scary, but they don’t scare me at all.”

As a foster care worker at Bethany Christian Services, Hubbell worked with some of the most troubled youth in the Traverse City area. “Some kids were so messed up from their home life that they would bounce from house to house because no family could handle their behavior,” she said. “Some of them never even received therapy—that piece just fell through the cracks.” Working in foster care for five years provided some of her most memorable, yet toughest counseling cases. In particular, Hubbell recalls a young woman who, as a child was removed from her mother and placed in a foster home, only to illegally run away from her foster family and return to her mother. Years later when she was a teenager, “SWAT came to her home, broke down the door, and placed her back in foster care,” Hubbell said. “This girl had a lot of issues because she loved her mom and didn’t want to be adopted, but her mom basically kidnapped her and kept her in hiding for years.”

Teens 1 Teens 2

Trauma and Family Care

Although heartbreaking at times, Hubbell has found her experiences in the foster care system invaluable. “I don’t think I could be as good of a therapist as I am without it. Every case was a learning experience,” she said. Through exposure to legal issues, employment issues, substance abuse, mental illness, and other hardships, foster care prepared her to better people’s lives, especially those struggling with past trauma. As a trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapist, Hubbell now connects personal tragedies to unhealthy behaviors. “Everyone has undergone a traumatic experience in their life, whether it be the death of a loved one or a bad accident,” Hubbell said. “People don’t see the how the trauma affects them until somebody like me helps puts the pieces of the puzzle together.”

At Mental Wellness Counseling, Hubbell enjoys counseling families. By treating the parents and children as a holistic system, she aims to improve the overall family dynamic. To do so may require addressing a child’s past trauma or linking the parents’ social history to their parenting techniques. In every case, Hubbell says progress requires difficult conversations. “Today’s teens are really hard. Some don’t talk, don’t let anybody in, and don’t trust anybody. They have a hard exterior to scare people away,” she said. “Though it’s really hard to talk about the hard stuff they’ve been through, it’s the most important part.”

Dual TransformationsSarah H Quote

Whether she is working with children, teens, adults, or families, Hubbell’s hope for her client(s) is always to “get back to good.” The most rewarding part of her job is seeing clients make transitions toward better mental health. The young woman in foster care is just one example. During her last year of foster care, Hubbell learned that the woman was married with a child and living on a farm with her favorite animal, a horse. “Though she really struggled, she got to a place where she was able to hold a relationship, get married, and start a family,” Hubbell said. “After so much trauma, she was able to start a life for herself.”

Hubbell has learned that almost every life experience “sticks with us and changes us.” Her counseling career has not only impacted her clients, but also changed her own life for the better. “My experiences in foster care, a local mental health facility, and Mental Wellness have molded me into who I knew I could become,” she said.

Sarah Hubbell Traverse City counselor headshot
Sarah Hubbell, MA, LLPC

Click here to learn more about Sarah or to schedule an appointment.

Want to schedule an intake? Click here.

Nicole Ball: Empowering Women

The Mental Wellness Counseling “Meet the Counselors” series offers a deeper look into each counselor’s background, experiences, motivations, values, and philosophies. In this series, I put counselors on the couch to learn why and how they do what they do.

Nine Joyless Months

Pregnancy 1

Pregnancy according to Nicole Ball is not always the glowing complexion, framed sonogram photo, flowery baby shower experience that it’s often cracked up to be. “As a society, we expect pregnancy to be this beautiful, joyful experience,” Ball said, “but for some women, pregnancy is the worst time of their lives. For the whole nine months, they’re scared and full of anxiety.”

Meeting pregnant clients in Traverse City who struggle with past or present trauma initially sparked Ball’s interest in pregnancy anxiety. She’s been specializing in it ever since. “From a practice perspective, I feel like pregnancies are really untapped because everybody sees a pregnant woman and assumes she’s so happy,” Ball said. “But you don’t know what that sexual assault she went through at thirteen is doing to the pregnancy. Even for women who have repressed traumas, sometimes pregnancy is when those memories will come back.”

A New Lens

Ball counsels (pregnant) women who have had miscarriages, been subject to sexual assault, domestic violence, or other traumas. Reliving the tragic memories is the biggest challenge for both the client and Ball, albeit a necessary step to healing. “My goal is to feel with the client, not feel for the client,” she said. “That makes a huge difference because clients feel like their story has meaning, whether it’s good or bad.”

For survivors, the path to healing can be arduous. However, through the art of active listening and thoughtful discussion, Ball’s therapeutic approach aims to broaden clients’ perspectives, enabling them to reach new insights about their situation. “We all have a separate lens that we see life through based on our experiences, culture, and how we interact with people,” Ball said. “I’ve learned that not everybody’s lens is the same, and that’s okay. I may see a situation differently than my client, but I can facilitate a conversation in a way that helps them discover new things about themselves and their past. Clients seem to find their own answers through a new perspective.”

Baby Steps to Success

In Ball’s experience, women restore their autonomy when they begin making confident, self decisions and doing things they normally would not do. Even the smallest victories gain positive momentum. “Maybe a woman hasn’t gone to Meijer in five years because her abuser might go there, and now she’s going to Meijer to do her grocery shopping. That’s huge,” Ball said. “We might not see it as a risk, but for her, it was something she was able to conquer. It shows she’s gained some of her power back.”

Ball claims that abusers rob victims of their independence, self-worth, and ultimately power. In the end, whether she is assisting sexual assault/domestic violence support groups, doing one-on-one counseling, or working as a doula, the goal is to help her clients reclaim their lives. “When I work with a woman for a long time, I hope to see her regain that sense of self—feeling like she has control over her life again and isn’t afraid,” she said. “Any time a woman, regardless of her trauma, gains her power back, that’s when I feel most successful.

Nicole trauma abuse domestic violence counselor Traverse City
Nicole Ball, LLMSW

Click here to learn more about Nicole or to schedule an appointment.

Want to schedule an intake? Click here.

Jessica Kelley: Nurturing Love and Growth 

The Mental Wellness Counseling “Meet the Counselors” series offers a deeper look into each counselor’s background, experiences, motivations, values, and philosophies. In this series, I put counselors on the couch to learn why and how they do what they do.

Q: What experiences have you had that make you feel capable of being a counselor?

A: Before my counseling work, I worked at a homeless shelter with women and children. My main job was to make sure everybody was where they needed to be, had what they needed, and resolve guest conflicts. I had a big spread of opportunity to interact with a lot of people with different religious views, cultural backgrounds, and ethnicities. Also, there’s addiction in my family history. My brother dealt with addiction, so I’m able to relate with people on that aspect.

Q: Why are you passionate about working with children?

A: There’s a special place in my heart for kids. They have this wonder about them. They give you a taste of the simpler things in life and remind you of things that don’t matter as much, or things that do.

Q: What is play therapy?

A: Play is a great way for children to express what they’re going through. There’s toys in a room; it’s a free space to let the child create and express what they’re feeling and thinking without words. During the session, the counselor tracks what the child is doing, picking out their actions and emotions.

Q: What is the most important characteristic for a counselor?

A: You have to be a good teacher. An ideal teacher listens, gives information and direction, but also gives the chance to seek solutions. At the homeless shelter and as a teacher’s assistant in a daycare, I tried to help people resolve their problems. Sometimes people really beat themselves up, so I try to convey an atmosphere of “I believe in you, you can do this. You’re not a failure in life; you’re an amazing person.”

Q: What are the challenges or most difficult aspects of your work?

A: Everyone has experienced some trauma in their life to varying degrees. When I’m dealing with trauma, it’s very difficult to keep that separate from my own life, to not take the burden home with me. As a counselor, it’s important to find your own internal validation—feeling good about yourself—not based on your clients’ success or failure.

Q: What is the most satisfying, rewarding thing about what you do?

A: When a client has a lightbulb moment. When you bring up things that you notice in sessions and they’re like, “you’re right, I didn’t notice that.” That’s so powerful, because we don’t always see in ourselves the progress we’re making. When someone else can point it out and when they start to recognize it on their own, it’s so great. They’re noticing, thinking inwardly, and seeing the good in themselves.

Q: Future plans?

A:  I’m starting to build up my practice in Traverse City since I’m new to Mental Wellness and Traverse City. I hope to become a registered play therapist and still do private practice counseling. I would also like to train in EMDR to utilize it in trauma counseling.

Jessicad Kelley Traverse City counselor counseling therapist
Jessica Kelley MA, LLPC

Click here to learn more about Jessica or to schedule an appointment.

Want to schedule an intake? Click here.

Consequences vs. Punishment for Kids

Consequences vs. Punishment for Kids

By Jessica Kelley

As a parent it’s easy to get discouraged from energy exhausted into trying to get an obstinate child to “mind” you. After multiple failed attempts for obedience, you can start to give up, and hence give in to your child’s demands, tantrums, and behavior issues.

How does this affect the parent and the home environment? It can lead to marital strain, increased irritability, sibling rivalry, a sense of loss of control, and self-depreciating thoughts.

How can a parent gain ground back on the parenting battlefield?

Consequences vs. Punishment

Start by giving the child consequences instead of punishment. You may wonder why, what is the difference between the two?

What is punishment?

  1. Punishment is action taken to reduce or eliminate an unwanted behavior.
  2. Punishment does not give the child a chance to correct their mistakes nor does it put them in charge of their actions.
  3. Additionally punishment does not offer an alternate desired behavior.

For example, a 6 year old child is grounded from watching My Little Pony for screaming at Mom in the restaurant. This may lead to the child being less likely to scream at Mom in the restaurant however they have not learned how mom would rather have the child speak to her.

What are consequences?

  1. Consequences are a either positive or negative result from the child’s choices, actions, and behavior.
  2. Consequences gives the child a chance to correct their behavior to avoid a negative outcome/consequence.
  3. Consequences give the child responsibility over their behavior, and give them a sense of power.
    1. Power? YES, power. This is a positive way to empower the child with the choice to influence their consequences positively or negatively.

How to implement Consequences

  1. Give them a choice when they are acting out negatively. Example: If you choose to continue to scream (negative behavior), then you choose to sit in time out (negative consequence). If you choose to speak to me calmly and kindly (positive behavior), then you choose to continue sitting with your friends (positive consequence).
  2. Be consistent and follow through. When you set a limit, and give a consequence, following through on your word is key. This shows your child you say what you mean and they can trust what you say.
  3. Give age appropriate and reasonable consequences. A 3 year old child will not comprehend losing TV for the entire day. Nor would it be reasonable to lose the TV for an entire week. However they will comprehend losing one specific TV show for the day.
  4. Let go of what’s not in your control. You cannot make your child change or behave in a certain way. Your consistency in following through with consequences will influence them positively. You are in control of your emotions, so allow your consequences to be about the facts and not get overwhelmed by emotions.
  5. Use “I” Statements. This type of communication is informative vs. explosive. For instance “I will not hold you when you push me in the chest.” vs. “Stop pushing me!”

Remember, the child will often get worse before they get better. This is the child’s way of testing the limits and seeing if they can push you. It is a challenge, but stay strong, be consistent, and support each other as you establish these new boundaries and limits with your child.

 

Jessicad Kelley Traverse City counselor counseling therapistJessica works in counseling from the desire to help individuals break unhappy and unhealthy cycles. Jessica is a native of Michigan. She started work in counseling from the desire to help individuals break unhappy and unhealthy cycles. Through her occupational experience, she has been able to serve individuals from various cultural and environmental backgrounds, religious beliefs, and various needs for community resources. She has worked with children and families, at risk youth, college students, and adults dealing with issues such as TBI, Homelessness, Depression Counseling, Anxiety, Alcohol/Drug addiction, life transitions, child/parent relationships, relationship conflict, and low self-esteem.

To call Jessica 231-714-0282 ext. 707

Teen Addictions: From Warning Signs to Treatment

Teen Addictions: From Warning Signs to Treatment

 

By: Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC

Sam came into my office with fear in his eyes. His father had called me and stated he needed to find some help for his boy – all had not been right for a while. Sam was a freshman in college and had been doing outstanding in his studies. During the Christmas break, Sam had gone to a party and though he has smoked pot occasionally, he was about to experience drugs in a whole new light.

The mixture was LSD and Ecstasy – candy flipping. Being inexperienced with the drugs, he took five times the normal dosage and three months later, he was still dealing with side effects.

After the pleasurable effects of candy flipping, Sam dealt with unwanted after-effects, which typically occur two to three days after the drug use and are known as blues or suicide Tuesday:

  • Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, paranoia
  • Problems with sleeping
  • Poor concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Craving for the drug

But what made it even worse for Sam was not just the normal side effects but he had incurred possible brain damage with side effects still affecting him months afterwards: difficulty sleeping, erratic behavior, temper issues, balance and difficulty with light tracing.

Sam had to drop out of the following term and was struggling with holding a job and at times, dealing with simple reality. What began as an experimental night out with friends became a struggle to understand for the family: Would this be his new reality for the rest of his life?

Teen Dilemma

  • In 1998, nearly 10 percent of adolescents (age 12 to 17) reported using an illicit drug at least once during the past month. About one in 12 youth (8.3 percent) in this age group are current (past month) users of marijuana, the most frequently used illicit drug, and 19.1 percent are current users of alcohol.
  • More than half (55 percent) of our nation’s 12th graders have tried an illicit drug and more than one-quarter (29 percent) have tried a drug other than marijuana, such as cocaine, inhalants and heroin.
  • Youth age 16 to 17 have the second highest rate (16.4 percent) of current illicit drug use in the country. The highest rate (19.9 percent) is found among young people age 18 to 20.
  • It’s estimated that 400,000 adolescents are in need of substance abuse treatment
  • Reports from eighth graders first use of substances by the fourth grade: alcohol 6.8%, cigarettes 7.3%, inhalants 3.6%, and marijuana 1.1%
  •  Although consumption of alcoholic beverages is illegal for people under 21 years of age, 10.4 million current drinkers are age 12 to 20. Of this group, nearly half (5.1 million) engage in binge drinking, including 2.3 million who would also be classified as heavy drinkers.

Being Attentive

People who interact with adolescents in the home or community need to be alert to changes in an adolescent’s behavior and appearance that may signal substance abuse.

By recognizing the potential warning signs and symptoms of substance use, you may be able to get help for a teenager in need of treatment. The following behavior changes, when extreme or lasting for more than a few days, may indicate alcohol-related or drug-related problems and the need for further screening by a professional.

Sudden changes in personality without another known cause:

  • Loss of interest in once favorite hobbies, sports, or other activities
  • Sudden decline in performance or attendance at school or work
  • Changes in friends and reluctance to talk about new friends
  • Deterioration of personal grooming habits
  • Difficulty in paying attention, forgetfulness
  • Sudden aggressive behavior, irritability, nervousness, or giddiness
  • Increased secretiveness, heightened sensitivity to inquiry

Consequences

Adolescents face unique risks associated with substance abuse. The use of substances may compromise an adolescent’s mental and emotional development by interfering with how young people approach and experience interactions. In addition, adolescents are at serious risk for a number of direct and indirect consequences, including the following:

  • Delinquent Behavior—Adolescents who use marijuana weekly are six times more likely than non-users to report they run away from home, five times more likely to say they steal from places other than home and four times more likely to report they physically attack people.
  •  School-Related Problems—Adolescent substance abuse is associated with declining grades, absenteeism from school and dropping out of school. Cognitive and behavioral problems experienced by teens abusing substances may interfere with their academic performance.
  • Traffic Accidents—Nearly half (45 percent) of all deaths from traffic accidents are related to the consumption of alcohol and an estimated 18 percent of drivers age 16 to 20 (or 2.5 million adolescents) drive under the influence of alcohol.
  • Risky Sexual Practices—Adolescents who use drugs and alcohol are more likely than non-using teens to have sex, initiate sex at a younger age and have multiple sex partners, placing them at greater risk for unplanned pregnancies and HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Juvenile Crime—Adolescents age 12 to 16 who have ever used marijuana are more likely at some point to have sold marijuana (24 percent vs. less than one percent), carried a handgun (21 percent vs. seven percent) or been in a gang (14 percent vs. two percent) than youth who have never used marijuana.
  • Developmental Problems—Substance abuse can compromise an adolescent’s psychological and social development in areas such as the formation of a strong self-identity, emotional and intellectual growth, establishment of a career and the development of rewarding personal relationships.
  • Physical and Mental Consequences—Smoking marijuana can have negative effects on the user’s mind and body. It can impair short-term memory and comprehension, alter one’s sense of time and reduce the ability to perform tasks that require concentration and coordination, such as driving a car. Evidence also suggests that the long-term effects of using marijuana may include increased risk of lung cancer and other chronic lung disorders, head and neck cancer, sterility in men and infertility in women.
  • Future Use Disorders—The earlier the age at which a person first drinks alcohol, the more likely that person is to develop an alcohol use disorder. A person who starts drinking alcohol at age 13 is four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence at some time in his or her life than someone who starts drinking at age 20.

Treatment

Treating adolescents for substance abuse requires special consideration of the adolescent’s individual experience and how it affects the nature and severity of his or her alcohol or drug use. Understanding the adolescent’s situation will help explain why alcohol or drugs are used and how they became an integral part of his or her identity. Factors that need to be considered when tailoring treatment for adolescents include the following:

  • Developmental Stages—Treatment for adolescents must address their unique developmental needs, which vary with the age of the client. Developmental features of younger adolescents are different from those of older adolescents. For example, older adolescents are more capable of abstract thinking and are more likely to openly rebel than younger adolescents.
  • Ethnicity and Culture—Norms, values and health beliefs differ across cultures and can affect substance abuse treatment. For example, some cultural groups may consider treatment invasive; others may wish to involve the extended family. Treatment services need to be culturally competent and use the preferred language of adolescent clients and their families.
  • Gender and Sexual Orientation—Factors that influence adolescent substance abuse and involvement in treatment differ by gender. For example, whereas adolescent girls more often have internalizing co-existing disorders such as depression, boys are more likely to have externalizing disorders such as conduct disorders. Effective treatment for gay, bisexual and transgendered youth includes helping them to acknowledge and accept their sexual identity.
  • Co-existing Mental Disorders—Adolescents with substance abuse disorders are more likely than their abstinent peers to have co-existing mental health problems such as anxiety disorders, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder and depression. In these teens, substance abuse may disguise, exacerbate or be used to “self-medicate” psychiatric symptoms. Without tailored treatment, co-existing mental disorders could interfere with the adolescent’s ability and motivation to participate in addiction treatment and could increase the potential for relapse.
  • Family Factors— An adolescent’s family has a potential role both in the origin of his or her substance abuse problem and as an agent of change in the adolescent’s environment. Treatment should take into account family factors that increase risk for substance abuse problems in youth, such as any history of parental or sibling substance abuse problems or addiction; domestic violence; physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, and neglect. Whenever possible, parents should be involved in all phases of their adolescent’s treatment.

Parental Influence

Alcoholism and other drug addiction tend to run in families. Children of addicted parents are more at risk for alcoholism and other drug abuse than are other children:

  • Family interaction is defined by substance abuse or addiction in a family.
  • Families affected by alcoholism report higher levels of conflict than do families with no alcoholism.
  • *A relationship between parental addiction and child abuse has been documented in a large proportion of child abuse and neglect cases.
  • Children of addicted parents have a high rate of behavior problems.
  • Children of addicted parents experience greater physical and mental health problems and higher health and welfare costs than do children from non-addicted families.

Encouragement

Adolescents who are in treatment or recovery need all the support they can get from their families and communities. Consider taking one or more of the following actions to support youth undergoing treatment for and recovery from substance abuse. Encourage schools to offer student assistance programs, counseling on substance abus, and confidential referral to treatment and recovery resources in the community.

  • Encourage purchasers of health insurance to obtain comprehensive coverage for substance abuse and mental health services.
  • Encourage treatment centers, schools, and community-based youth organizations to conduct support groups for children of parents who are addicted to alcohol and drugs.
  • Encourage adolescents who have recovered successfully from addictive disorders to participate in community events that target their peers.
  • Because alcohol and drug use among youth often occurs in groups, be aware that encouraging one young person to seek help may lead others in his or her social group to seek treatment.
  • Encourage environmental changes in your community that promote recovery such as reducing the number of billboards advertising alcoholic beverages and holding alcohol-free recreational events.
  • Encourage the participation of family members in all aspects of the treatment and recovery process for adolescents and foster the availability of family-centered support groups and other services that address the needs of the entire family.
  • Be a positive role model for young people in treatment and recovery by not engaging in any illegal or unhealthy substance use.
  • Get involved in organizations that to support substance abuse treatment and recovery programs for adolescents.
  • Stay informed about available local resources for treatment and recovery and use this knowledge to help others.

 

Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC is a counselor at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He specializes in helping families dealing with complex family situations, addictions, and transitions. Steve is also helping clients through the Intensive Recover Program, which helps with recovery treatment, alcohol treatment, and other addictions treatment. Contact Steve at 231-714-0282 Ext. 701

Steve Greenman Traverse City Counselor
Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC | Thoughtful Experience
Self-Esteem: Set-Up for Success or Failure

Self-Esteem: Set-Up for Success or Failure

By: Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC

 

Many people go through life expecting the worst. Alfred Alder, the 19th century Austrian psychotherapist, stated: “Meanings are not determined by situations, but we determine ourselves by the meanings we give to situations.” But you can help your clients change their perceptions of themselves and the world and, as a result, work toward positive and high self-esteem.

In the words of self-help pioneer, Maxwell Maltz: “Low self-esteem is like driving through life with your hand-break on.

When people have deep spiritual, physical, and emotional wounds, they can carry these burdens with them through life. In so doing, they cloud their perception of their own value or importance. And our perception of ourselves is what dictates our self-esteem.

In carrying the burdens of low self-esteem, people often substitute these feelings with dependency self-gratification methods, such as alcohol, drugs, gambling, and pornography. In some ways, these people want control of changing their low self-image, and for too many the answer is to indulge or self-medicate. Dependencies allow them to deal with the status quo and numb away the negative feelings.

What is Low Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem refers to the overall opinion we have of ourselves and the value we place on ourselves as people. Low self-esteem means that the tone of this opinion is negative: for example, “I’m unlovable” or “I’m useless.”

Of course most people have mixed opinions of themselves, but if the overall opinion is that you are an inadequate or inferior person, or if you feel that you have no true worth and are not entitled to the good things in life, this is low self-esteem. And low self-esteem can have a painful and damaging effect on one’s life.

The Ways People Support Their Low Self-Esteem

 Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning in their book Self-Esteem (New Harbinger Publications, 2000) list ways in which one maintains a low view of oneself. Talk to your clients to see if they practice any of these bad habits:

  • Overgeneralization: From an isolated event, you make a general, universal rule. If you failed once, you’ll always fail.
  • Global Labeling: You automatically use negative preconceived labels to describe yourself, rather than accurately describing your qualities.
  •  Filtering: You selectively pay attention to the negative and disregard the positive.
  •  Polarized Thinking: You lump things into absolutes, black and white categories, with no middle ground. You have to be perfect or you’re worthless.
  •  Self-Blame: You consistently blame yourself for things that may not really be your fault.
  •  Personalization: You assume that everything has something to do with you, and you negatively compare yourself to everyone else.
  •  Mind Reading: You assume that others don’t like you, are angry with you, don’t care about you and so on, without any real evidence that your assumptions are correct.
  •  Control Fallacies: You either feel that you have total responsibility for everybody and everything or feel that you have no control; that you are a helpless victim.
  •  Emotional Reasoning: You assume that things are the way you feel about them.

Ways of Increasing Self-Esteem

 We are what we think. What people take in influences their perceptions of themselves, and the filters they use to gather information about themselves is key in how they feel.

The problem with changing anything in life is that people fight it: no matter how bad they feel, humans are creatures of habit.

The following is a list of potential ways of increasing self-esteem that you can recommend to clients in your practice:

  •  Use positive self-talk: Tell yourself you can handle it and support yourself in going after your goals.
  • Engage in regular physical activity: Regular exercise fends off depression, low energy, and disease, while increasing stress management abilities and enhancing your mood.
  • Take care of your needs: Be good to yourself by getting adequate sleep, taking care of your personal hygiene, creating time to be alone, saying no when you need to, eating in nutritious ways, stimulating your mind, and connecting with others.
  • Let the little things go: It is damaging to your health to beat yourself up over every little thing.
  • Own who you are: Give yourself permission to like what you like and not like what you don’t like.
  • Practice self-acceptance: Get to know yourself. Let go of any need to be perfect.
  • Be creative: Creativity helps you achieve a greater sense of well-being and gain better control of your thoughts. Step out of the box.
  • Have a grateful and optimistic attitude about life: Practice daily gratitudes.
  • Have personal integrity and live by your values: Listen to your inner voice.
  • Participate in meaningful activities: Follow your passions.

The bottom line when it comes to self-esteem is we play the most important role in our own self-esteem. One’s personal happiness can greatly increase by taking positive action in changing one’s attitude.

Advise your clients to take time in their days to meditate and take stock in how they are processing the world around them. Teach them to be attuned to setting healthy boundaries with themselves and others, and not be afraid of asking a trusted love one to give a valid and honest assessment of how they are doing. Lastly, tell them to take the brake off, and allow themselves the freedom to enjoy the ride of their lives.

“Only as high as I reach can I grow, only as far as I seek can I go, only as deep as I look can I see, only as much as I dream can I be.” Karen Ravn

 

Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC is a counselor at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He specializes in helping families dealing with complex family situations, addictions, and transitions. Steve is also helping clients through the Intensive Recover Program, which helps with recovery treatment, alcohol treatment, and other addictions treatment. Contact Steve at 231-714-0282 Ext. 701

Steve Greenman Traverse City Counselor
Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC | Thoughtful Experience

 

Traverse City Family Counseling

Traverse City Family Counseling

5 Ways to help angry kids

Are your kids angry? Did your son recently get a MIP? Does your daughter sneak out? Do your kids throw tantrums? As experts in counseling children, working with angry kids, and family counseling, we want to help. Whether that is through reading our blog posts about family counselor or scheduling an appointment, we’d love to be a resource to you and your family. Counseling is a tough journey, but it can help families grow closer.

Traverse City Family Counseling | Tip #1

Be consistent: Kids want to know what to expect. A parent should be the most reliable person in a child’s life. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. Follow through will help your child feel safe.

Traverse City Family Counseling | Tip #2

Have Goals: Having goals for yourself and for your child will help you to know what you want done. The more clear these goals are, the better. It helps to break those goals down into smaller points.

Traverse City Family Counseling | Tip #3

Keep your emotions under control: Every child knows how to push their parent’s buttons. When a parent keeps their emotions under control, it teaches children how to react in difficult situations. Here’s an inforgraphic that we use in family counseling.

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How to Improve Kids’ Sleep | 10 resources to help kids sleep

How to Improve Kids’ Sleep | 10 resources to help kids sleep

How to Improve Kid’s Sleep

As parents, we want to stay educated and up-to-date on what best helps our kids learn, grow, and thrive. This page is centered around the topic of sleep. Why sleep? Here are a few reasons:

1. Sleep is core to improvement and maintenance in a number of areas including attention, depression, anxiety, and learning.

2. For kids to prepare their brains for learn absorption, they need 8-10 hours of sleep.

3. Behavior changes can be addressed quickly through improving sleep.

Tools to help learn about kid’s sleep

Below you’ll find several tools, resources, and articles that can help you as a parent to educate yourself about the topic of sleep.

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Kids should play more video games…or should they?

Kids should play more video games…or should they?

Watch Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk above to know how this fits into video games.

Hospice Workers Report Top 5 Regrets on Deathbeds

Here’s the link to the article

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

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Nine ways to get better sleep

Nine ways to get better sleep

9 ways to get better sleep

Sleep is when our brains organize what has happened. Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep. People/kids in school need 8-10 hours to appropriately categorize what they have learned.

Less sleep = More anxiety/depression/academic failure

Don’t have a TV in your bedroom, it stimulates your brain to think it is morning and makes your brain want to be awake in bed

Turn off screens 30 minutes before bed, it’s like looking at the sun and wondering why you are awake

Keep a notepad next to your bed to write down ideas/to-do list, it frees up your brain

Go to bed and wake up around the same time every day

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Joe’s new parenting book

Joe’s new parenting book

Joe’s New Book

Mental Wellness Parenting | A remarkably simple approach to making parenting easier

 

From Mental Wellness Parenting | A remarkably simple approach to making parenting easier:

Control vs. Voice

So how do we use this new information about guiding our kids to help them change their behavior? Ultimately, you have no control over your child. They make decisions every day. They are their own persons.

Webster’s defines “control” as: “To exercise restraining or directing influence over. To have power over. Reduce the incidence or severity of especially to innocuous levels <control an insect population> <control a disease>”

The part of this definition that I like is the “directing influence over”. I would argue that this comes less from control and more from having a voice in your child’s life.

One of Webster’s definitions of “voice” is, “wish, choice, or opinion openly or formally expressed.” So to have a “voice” in your child’s life is for your wishes, choices, and opinions to somehow take root in them.

Think about who has a voice in your life. Who can say to you, “Here is my opinion” and you consider it?

Is it your mom?

Dad?

Best friend?

Wife or husband or significant other?

How did they gain that voice in your life? Did they do something? Did they act a certain way? Is it because you have seen how they live their life and you respect that? Do you aspire to be like them or certain parts of them? What is it that allows them to have that voice, not control, in your life?

I believe that it is trust. They somehow built trust in you. Building a voice comes from trust. For kids, that trust comes from three specific things. To build trust as parents we must demonstrate:

  1. Consistency and love
  2. Set an example
  3. Spur something in our children that brings life

Consistency and Love

In future chapters I will discuss more in-depth what this looks like and ways that you can increase consistency and demonstrate your love. One definition of “consistency” is “agreement or harmony of parts or features to one another or a whole.”

To be a consistent parent, you have to have harmony in what you do. What does this mean? It means that it is better to say nothing at all, rather than a false promise. By false promise I mean not following through on things you say. If you give a warning to a child regarding their behavior, then follow through.

When you start thinking this way, two things will happen inside of you. First, you will slow down the frequency of threats that you make because you know that you need to follow through. Also, you will evaluate the intensity of threats.

One thing about threats: they don’t work.

 

Threats don’t work

Why don’t threats work? Think about it this way. Your boss keeps coming in your office for two weeks reminding you of a date that a report is due. She says, “If it’s not on my desk on November 12th, then I’m writing you up.” November 12 comes and goes, you had some crazy things happen in your family and you just couldn’t get it done.

Then in January she does the same thing for the report due January 29th. Again you miss the mark and it comes and goes, yet no write up. Imagine this happened over 18 years in the company. Sometimes she does write you up sometimes she doesn’t.

Now imagine a different scenario. At a staff meeting she announces that reports need to be timely. To try and help the staff keep it in their mind, if the November 12th report is in on time you will get an overnight at the hotel of your choice and if not, then you will be written up.

No more reminders.

Then she does what she says.

Often parents believe that they have a voice in their child’s life and that is enough, but really a voice is earned through consistency. Your action of giving positive or negative consequences will speak more than anything you could say ahead of time or threaten.

Even when threats do seem to work, it is usually not based on building a long-term voice in your child’s life.

The second part of this is building love. I trust that you love your child deeply; otherwise you would not be reading this book. So it is not how to build your love for your child that is the issue, it is how do children receive love?
Consistency in parenting helps kids feel safe. If you are about to manage a child in a grocery store and help her choose good choices there, then you can definitely take on any monster, bad dream, bully, and tornado. Kids fear all sorts of things.

A psychologist named Maslow created what he called the “Hierarchy of Needs”. His belief was that if basic needs are not met is it is harder or impossible to work toward higher needs. Thus, if safety needs of security aren’t met, it is harder to build feelings of love and belonging.

I had a client recently who had her apartment broken into. She was staying up all night because she was scared someone would break in, then she was sleeping during the day, but her classes were slipping. Her feelings of lack of safety made it harder for her to do more complex thinking like that which is required in school.

The same is true for kids, as they see that you can handle a variety of situations, they will trust that you can protect them…

counselor Traverse City counseling family

 

 

 

 

 

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed counselor and owner of Mental Wellness Counseling. He is also the author of the books Mental Wellness Parenting | A remarkably simple approach to making parenting easier
and Practice of the Practice | A Start-up Guide to Launching a Counseling Private Practice

14 Ways to Show Your Kids Love on Valentine’s Day

14 Ways to Show Your Kids Love on Valentine’s Day

Traverse City counseling counselor kids
Even parents need reminders. Sometimes it’s easy to just get in the routine of parenting. Although Valentine’s Day is often for lovers, we love our kids! It is a special day to share with them just how much they mean to you. Here are a few tips and ideas.
  1. Take them out for breakfast.
  2. Give them 14 extra hugs.
  3. Make a list of everything that they are doing right, read it to them at breakfast.
  4. Treat their mother or father well, even if they are a jerk.
  5. Have one-on-one time with them.
  6. Play a family game.
  7. Make their favorite meal for dinner.
  8. Plan a family outing, go for a hike, or explore something new.
  9. Do a craft together and then give it to someone special in their life, let them pick the person.
  10. Read an extra book at bedtime, even if you are really tired.
  11. Be home when they are home.
  12. Make a list of what they have taught you and read it to them.
  13. Do something playful that uses energy like playing in the snow.
  14. Redirect your own frustrations and anger and respond as graceful as possible to situations.

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Parenting Soup

Parenting Soup

Being a good parent is like making soup. For those of you who have never made soup, except out of a can I’m sorry. You are truly missing out.

When making a good soup you can of course follow a recipe. But, some of the greatest surprises are when you create a soup from what you have and then it is amazing. As you sip that steamy amazing broth and dip bread to absorb the flavor, you understand that you may never taste this exact soup again. You savor it. When it is gone, you attempt to replicate it, but only if you are lucky will you create the exact same flavor again.

When I make soup, I look in the fridge and review what we have and need to get rid of. If we’re lacking, I move toward the freezer. I may start with sautéing meat or onions, then I’ll add additional vegetables to create a depth of flavor. I may add some flour to the oil or butter to make a roux.

When I was volunteering in New Orleans at a shelter for people in the final stages of AIDS, I asked a number of the nurses, “Can I have your gumbo recipe?” They almost always replied, “Son, you just use whatcha got in da fridge, or you use Zataran’s.”

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Preparing for Gift Letdowns

Preparing for Gift Letdowns

Traverse City counselor

 

 

 

 

 

 

The wonderful and scary thing about kids is that they say what they think. That
is why a hug from them is so wonderful and a critical comment can cut through a
parent’s heart. They are not censoring much of what they say and do.

With the holiday season upon us Santa, friends, and family brings gifts to celebrate
our holidays. How do we prepare our kids to reduce the likelihood of a meltdown or
inconsiderate word?

Lead By Example

Why is this season so special? Do you tell your kids the stories of your childhood
and why you find meaning? Does your behavior match what you articulate and think
about this season?

When parents are stressed and running here and there, kids pick up on that. They
know that shopping, cooking, and other expectations are freaking you out. That
sends them the message that those things are the focus of this season, not the more
important stories, traditions, and spiritual aspects.

Prepare Them

Running through scenarios with your kids, especially before holiday gatherings
helps them to know expectations and also know how to respond. Maybe ask
them, “How would you respond if you got a gift you didn’t like?” This is a great
chance to act, play, and also learn how to be grateful without lying, before they are
in the situation. Teach them to say something like, “Thank you so much, I will be
able to use this when I…”

Slow Down with Them

This last tip goes along with the first. Take time throughout the month of December
to have quality family time. Playing games, going for walks, and getting out of the
house (not to go shopping) allows for discussions, conversations, and finding depth
that is not found in the stress of the season.

Since kids are so honest, they are often a reflection of how we are approaching
the season. When stress, worry, and expectations drive this season rather than
the wonderful family, personal, and spiritual traditions, we not only short change
ourselves, but also our kids.

counselor Traverse City counseling family
Joseph R. Sanok is a counselor with Mental Wellness Counseling
(www.mentalwellnesscounseling.com) in Traverse City, MI where he helps angry kids, frustrated parents, and distant couples…and just about everyone else. He can’t wait for his family’s Polish tradition
on Christmas Eve of celebrating Wigilia Dinner where the pierogis are the best!

 

 

 

Traverse City therapist Picture used from Creative Commons, thanks asenat29!

A rap is worth a thousand words

A rap is worth a thousand words


Parents rap about maintaining their household by videosonlytube

I just saw this video. I don’t have much insight regarding counseling or therapeutic issues to write about. More that I just love how this couple seems to work together. It is so easy to get caught up in life’s tasks, but when a couple fires on all cylinders it feels so good to watch and for the couple it is great.

John Gottman, a marriage researcher talks about a couple’s tendency to begin to live parallel lives. In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work he talks about how over time, a couple can drift away from one another. Their parallel lives become more like roommates, than as partners.

Dr. Gottman discusses how couples need to have a 5:1 ratio of positive interactions to negative. I would take that a step further. Couples also need to focus on daily interactions that cause strife and grow their cognizance of how their mood and personality can change the tone of the environment.

Further, marriage research discusses how a couple needs to look at their issues and see if the are resolvable or if they are positions that the person is entrenched. If it is not an issue that can be resolved, such as religion or sometimes politics, a couple can agree to disagree or figure out a way to call a “time out.” When couples begin this process, they can find less stress that effects their daily life.

So maybe I had a comment or two, but the video is pretty awesome, isn’t it?

 

counselor Traverse City counseling family

 

 

 

 

 

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed therapist and the owner of Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He is learning techniques to help his clients and his own marriage. Also, he likes funny rap videos like this one.

Traverse City counseling counselor therapist family

 

 

 

The Teen Brain

The Teen Brain

“All teenagers are risk-takers, moody, and get embarrassed by their parents.”

“They are angry and hate adults.”

“They only listen to their friends.”

Are these statements really true?

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore discusses why teenagers seem more impulsive and less self-aware than grown-ups. She compares the prefrontal cortex in adolescents to adults. Often typically “teenage” behavior is caused by the expanding development of the brain. Within the context of my counseling practice, parents often view their children through an adult lens.

As I watched this video at my Traverse City office, I liked the idea of synapse pruning. This is where the adolescent brain is working to fine tune brain tissue that is important and that which is not needed. Functional MRIs help to discover aspects that are more or less important and to view what assists teenagers through this process.

Further, the limbic system is more sensitive to the emotional rewards and feelings of risky behavior. It is heightened during adolescence so that risky behavior feels more exciting and fulfilling. However, the pre-frontal cortex  is the section that stops risky behavior and helps to connect behavior and consequences. That section is not as developed. So there is a deeper sense of excitement without the stop-gap measures.

 



So what can parents do to help their teenagers?

  • Understand the teenage brain and learn more to develop a working knowledge of what natural barriers they may experience.
  • Realize that frustrating behavior is often part of teens learning how to appropriately be independent.
  • Environment can play a substantial role in which synapse connect. Work to create an environment that helps your teen to have a realistic understanding of the world.
  • Don’t fear giving positive and negative consequences. Seek to have them relate to the inappropriate behavior. You don’t need to assist in funding behavior that you do not agree with, but do it with love and understanding.
  • Work to allow family discussion so that your teen feels heard.
  • Get counseling or therapy as a family if you feel that you have hit a roadblock.

counselor Traverse City counseling family

 

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is the owner and a counselor at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He does therapy with families, teens, and couples to grow through all of the phases of life. He is interested in the neuro-development of people over a lifetime.

 

 

 

 

Counseling Traverse City therapist

Helicopter Parents Gone Wild

Helicopter Parents Gone Wild

traverse city counseling counselor therapist

A “helicopter parent” is a parent who hovers over their child, waiting to catch them before they skin their knee. “Helicopter Parents” schedule, plan, and create a world for their children. They are usually highly involved and deep down want the best for their kids. They are often high achievers or wish they had been high achievers. “Helicopter Parents” also are usually highly involved in their kid’s education, after-school activities, and social lives. Overall, they have great intentions. I may even end up being one, in some area intentionally and in others unintentionally.

The hardest transitions for “helicopter parents” are to stop when they are tired and to allow age-appropriate freedoms. Are you one of these parents?

When you’re sick of flying

When these parents are frustrated with their kids, it is often because they don’t want them to fail. They have a difficult time with skinned knees and broken hearts. They have created a dynamic where they are the safety nets for their children, rather than teaching them how to create their own nets.

This typically creates a dynamic where the parent is blamed for the child’s mistakes. Both the parent and child think that it is mom or dad’s responsibility to get homework done, wake up on time, and not be “bored.” Yet, ultimately, we each are responsible for changing our lives toward what we want.

So how do you land the helicopter?

Daddy needs a drink

When was the last time you took a bath without interruption? What about sitting outside and enjoying the evening? Time with friends without looking at your phone for texts from your kids?

Sometimes, a parent needs to just step back and let the kids experience natural consequences. Whether it is a teen waking up late for work or kids sorting out who gets to play the game system, stepping back will often show you what you kids are capable of. Usually, the worst case scenario is not that bad and the best case is that they will increase their abilities to be responsible.

But they’re not old enough

Every single generation does it. They think they are so dang special. In counseling sessions or even with friends, I’ll ask, “What did you do when you were (insert age here)?” Almost universally friends and client respond, “I did some inapropriate behavior but…

“…it was different in the 60s, 70s, or 80s.”

“…things were safer.”

“…we didn’t have the internet.”

But parents weren’t thinking that then. They were thinking the same thing that parents are thinking now. When we’re a kid, we are oblivious to the dangers, consequences, and ways of the world. How did we learn? Was it when mom said, “No” or was it when we tried it out and formed our own conculsions?

Now I’m not saying take a step back and let “Lord of the Flies” occur in your household. Otherwise, you may come see me in counseling for something else. The main goal is to transition toward the empty nest not to have it be a sudden change.

 

counselor Traverse City counseling familyJoseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed therapist and counseling in Traverse City, MI where he owns Mental Wellness Counseling. He once flew in a helicopter in Nepal, it was a lot of fun.

 

 

 

 

Photo from Creative Commons, thank you JD Hancock

Parenting and stepping back

Parenting and stepping back

counseling Traverse City counselor

There are so many factors that go into parenting. It seems that every friend, website, magazine, and blog is telling you how to get more organized and structured in your parenting.

But what if I told you that you were too organized and rigid? Would that be freeing?

Of course there are times that you need to focus on structure and consistency. I teach parents those skills all the time. But I was thinking about this the other day. I was feeding my 13 month daughter. Everytime she would take a bit of banana, she would spit it out, smear it all over, and often then throw it on the floor. At first, I was saying, “No, we don’t eat that way,” or “Let’s not smear the banana.”

Then I stopped.

She has the rest of her life to eat in a polite way. So I just enjoyed the moment with my daughter. My stress dropped and almost immediately I was laughing with her.

Here are some things that most kids need more of:

1. Unstructured time to explore and play. This helps the brain learn to create, rather than be told how to create. For example, kids that watch a TV show and then have the action figure of that show are more likely to engage in play that has been defined by the TV show or by what the action figure is “supposed” to do. Over time, kids may say to one another G.I. Joe is a person, you can’t pretend that it’s a rocket ship.

2. More toys that don’t have a “meaning”. Why do you think kids love sticks, boxes, and tape? They are totally free.

3. Messy time to get dirty, covered in paint, and feel free. As well as the fact that it is just plain fun, it also helps them develop sensory skills.

4. Time to make their own choices. If their time is scheduled by adults, they will not learn the important skills of working hard and resting hard, or even saying, “I don’t feel like doing that.”

By giving kids the abilities to have choice, create, and get messy, it will help them learn and adapt in ways to help them become more agile in how they live life. Also, it will cause much less stress as a parent to let go.

 

private practice

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed professional counselor and owner at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He enjoys playing outside with his daughter.

Bus Monitor Bullied

Bus Monitor Bullied

Bus Monitor Bullied

counseling traverse city

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About a week ago, my wife was changing my daughter’s diaper. She was parked outside a pharmacy in Traverse City and she was changing the diaper on the front seat of our car. I wasn’t there.

Some teens pulled up and were seated with their windows down. They started making comments about “the crying baby” and “shut that baby up.” Of course, the audacity of the teens caught my wife off guard and in the moment she didn’t think of what to say or do, she just wanted to leave.

The recent viral video about a bus monitor being bullied has touched a nerve. In the video, a bus monitor is called a litany of names and she ends up crying. The video is just plain terrible.

People are asking:

What has happened to our society?

How are kids this terrible?

Where is the respect?

What is going on?

In some ways, kids are just as cruel as in past generations; however, they have more tools for learning and spreading this cruelty. The point for me is not how we got here, but how do we get out?

When I work with families in counseling, at my Traverse City practice, we discuss a number of factors. Here are a few steps that can help with this discussion.

Schools have been limited

In past generations, teachers and principals spanked, paddled, and hit kids. It is essential to strong learning and emotional development for kids to feel safe. Those days are done and I am not advocating for them to return. However, due to the culture of lawsuits and continued restraints on teachers to give detentions, in-school suspensions, and other negative consequences, it has created an environment where youth will dictate their own culture.

Parents are less involved

As parents evaluate their interactions and involvements in their kid’s lives, they need to continue to seek consistency and a culture of both positive and negative consequences. Our society continues to function based on us all seeking that most of our actions have clear consequences. As parents build this social skill in kids, they will collectively gain traction.

Society as a parent

Even though we are more connected, most cultural tools have been de-centralized. As a result, specific parenting and expectations have become less clear. As  a result, we don’t want to “step on toes”. Often people don’t speak up when their “gut” is telling them to speak up.

The answers to these behaviors are not clear cut like many talking heads are saying, but, as we evaluate empowering schools, parents, and individuals, we may see bullying decrease.

 

private practice

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed counselor and owner at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He has worked with bullied, at-risk, angry, and hurt kids since 1998. He also loves sailing.

When an escalator is not just an escalator

 

I was at a conference today in Traverse City and the facilitator showed this video. I absolutely love it. For one, it is funny. But It also makes several points that I think are worth noting. The facilitator discussed the mentalities that many of us have: Victim vs. Creator. When a stimulus happens and disrupts our lives we are handed a choice as to how we will react. Will we view it as a victim or as a creator.

Victim Mentality

As a victim, we respond with blaming and complaining. As well, we seek excuses and often repeat behaviors we have done over and over. Our energy goes into thoughts of, “Why did this happen to me” or the one that I often think, “Why didn’t someone else plan better?” “Why didn’t they fix or maintain the escalator?”

Creator Mentality

Within the creator approach, we seek to create a new situation. We spend our energy on seeking solutions, taking action, and trying something new. Rather than focusing on why we are there, we focus on how we get out.

When I was in school studying psychology and counseling at Western Michigan University, I helped with a research project that was observing people with ADHD. We found that they could not adapt or try new things as easily. Rather than keep trying new things until something worked, they overwhelmingly would try the old way, just with more energy.

When one spends a lifetime, or even a childhood like this, it can seem like the world is against you. As well, it feels like you can never succeed. One of the first steps in the therapeutic process, is to start recognizing that “victim” mentality. For example:

Victim Language: “My kids are always fighting, on one another’s case, and I can’t ever get anything done.”

Creator Language: “I need to set time aside to get things done and I may need to ask someone for help.”

One focuses on why we got to where we are, why we took that escalator today and why we were so stupid to be on it at that time. The other looks at how to get off the escalator so as to move on with life, even if it is difficult.

 

Joseph R. Sanok is a licensed professional counselor and owner at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. As well, he enjoys sailing. He has been on the only escalator in the Upper Peninsula of northern Michigan.

 

 

Three Tips to Relax More as a Parent

How’s it going friend?
I hope that your day is going fabulous! Also, thank you in advance for passing this on to one friend, I’m sure you know a parent that can grow with you, so thanks for helping your friends through this newsletter. 

Today’s newsletter is going to be a shorter letter with a few great tips to get you started with getting rid of Mommy/Daddy stress! I’m sure you’ve heard several things to reduce your stress, but maybe you haven’t thought of it this way, when you set time aside for yourself, you are more emotionally healthy, therefore, you will respond better when you have parenting decisions to make, you won’t yell as much and you’ll be more level headed. 

Sometimes you need someone to tell you:

“Take time for yourself, you have my permission.”

Tip #1 The Magic Three
Getting quality sleep, exercise, and eating foods low in processing all help reduce stress and help you feel more focused. There is something about these three in combination that destroys stress. Exercise makes you tired, which helps you sleep child clears your mind, as does healthier foods.

Tip #2 When you say “no” you are really saying “yes”
I was wondering, friend, do you feel guilty when you say, “no”? For me it helped to realize what I was saying “yes” to when I said “no.” If you say “no” to another play date, you say “yes” to more time at home, getting things done, or relaxing, Also, when you allow yourself to hear what your body needs, it is easier. We sometimes have Mommy/Daddy guilt, thinking we always have to be educating, playing with, or engaging our kids. It is alright to step back and relax for a moment. Realize that 15 minutes of time is 1% of your kid’s day. If you step back for 1%, the other 99% will be substantially better. 

Tip #3  Outsource something
Do you have friends or family members that could watch your child for 30 minutes every Wednesday while you go for a run? Could you swap having someone clean your house floors for something you enjoy more? Sometimes we don’t creatively engage with our friends. What if we folded laundry together at your house this week and my house next week? It would be more fun and go faster.

If that doesn’t work, send me an email, I’d love to help you out. Contact me now 

If you liked this, please pass it on to a friend or post it to Facebook/Twitter. Thank you so much!

 
Do you agree?

Well friend, that’s it for now!

-Joe

Joseph R. Sanok owns Mental Wellness Counseling  and is a Dad. He loves helping angry kids, frustrated parents, and struggling couples. He lives, works, and plays in Traverse City, MI. He also just launched the blogwww.PracticeofthePractice.com where he helps therapists to be more awesome. Check it out if you are a therapist looking to launch a private practice. 

Boundaries | Tantrum-Toddlers to Tantrum-Teens

First let me say “welcome” to all of our new subscribers. It has been overwhelming to see how many new people joined us in the last month. Welcome, welcome welcome and thank you! Those of you that are the vets of the list, thank you as well for sticking with me! Now, down to business.New Website
I have completely redesigned the Mental Wellness Counseling website, so that we can have not just counseling things, but items that are of interest to anyone seeking happiness, better parenting skills, or to improve their relationships. We have had some debates within my family about the front page design, I want to know what you think, please go towww.mentalwellnesscounseling.com and let me know. Do you love it? Hate it? Think it is cheeeezzzzy?Have a question for Joe? 
Contact me now 

Ask Joe
Think “Dear Abby” for a new generation. Each newsletter I will select one or more questions to answer. So if you have a parenting or mental wellness question, please send it my way.

Dear Joe,
I was out with my six-year-old and he wanted a soda pop before we left the mall, we were on our way home and I knew he’d be headed for bed. How can i reduce his tantrums over these little things?
-Soda-Pop-Mom

Dear Soda-Pop-Mom,
First, I would get down to his level. I would then say, “We are about to head home and it is going to be bedtime when we get there. A pop (or soda or “Coke” if you’re from Texas) is not going to help you sleep, so right now you can’t have a pop.” Then stand up and let him throw his tantrum.

After about 30 seconds, get down on his level again and say, “That’s not going to work, we need to head home.”

Most kids will eventually get it together within 3 minutes or so. If they seem to go longer, ask yourself if you have been giving in to this behavior. If so, are you teaching them to tantrum to get their way?  More times than not, when this approach is applied, the problem behavior disappears within a few times of consistently following this approach. The book Common Sense Parenting has a number of resources that can help, check out my website for some other ones that I think are great:http://www.mentalwellnesscounseling.com/resources/parenting/.

-Joe

By Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC

I just spoke at this group in Traverse City called Single MOMM. We talked about boundaries, kids, and friends. We discussed three things: 1. Make the boundary clear 2. Give feedback on the boundary 3. Make following the boundary easier.

For kids, being specific and clear about the boundary is the most important part. They will find a way around it or genuinely not understand. You then may mistake ignorance for defiance. So make it really clear.

Second, consequences are a great way to teach kids. Giving positive consequences to encourage positive behavior is the most effective way to change a behavior because you are teaching a new skill to replace the old skill. Thus, when you stop reinforcing and old way of getting something and encouraging the new, the child starts moving (sometimes very slowly) in the correct direction. Shoot for a 5:1 ratio of positive:negative.

Lastly, all this should lead into making the right path the easiest. Tear down barriers, if there have been problems with homework, design it so they can make the right choice easiest. The old way should be the hardest way to get what they want.

If that doesn’t work, send me an email, I’d love to help you out.Contact me now 

Do you agree?

That’s it for now!

-Joe

 

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor, therapist, psychologist, and overall helper of people in Traverse City, MI. He has professional experience working with Community Mental Health, residential facilities, foster care, and private practice. As well, he is the author of the book “Practice of the Practice: Basics for Launching Your Private Practice” due to be released in June 2012. He is a frequent speaker and writer locally in Traverse City, Michigan, and nationally.

Four Things Every Preschooler Should Do Every Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Joe,
My five year old daughter talks to everyone, she is a lovely person with a big personality. I am worried that she will talk to strangers and it could lead to something bad. What are your thoughts on “stranger danger.”
-A Mom in Traverse City, MI

Dear A Mom in TC,
First of all, it is great that your daughter has such great social skills. It is wonderful to see kids develop abilities to socialize at such a young age. I have often found it interesting that in my generation we were taught “Don’t talk to strangers” and then later in life we were suppose to switch to start “networking” with strangers once we were in a career. When the fear of strangers is put into a child, it often stays through life. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has called “stranger danger” a myth. As well, the National Criminal Justice Reference Surveys(https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=206179) discusses how most abductions occur from family members or people that are in the child’s life.
This is not to say that you should do nothing. In general, talk to your kids about what makes a person “safe”. Talk about good touch/bad touch. Talk about not keeping secrets. Believe your child when they are worried or scared, and keep communication lines open. Also, watch for people that are in your family or friends that may spend too much attention on your child. They might be nice or they might be a creeper, unfortunately, as parents we have to keep our radar up.

Give those strategies a whirl and let me know how it goes.
I hope that helps.

-Joe

Have a question for Joe? Email him and ask, what’s stopping you? Really, you know you want to:
Click here to ASK JOE 

Every parent wants their child to be healthy, happy, smart, and a functioning member of society. So what are some habits that are essential to building your child’s success? Here are four things that you should do your best to incorporate into your child’s life:

Sleep
A regular bedtime for kids that has a well established routine is essential. A lot of parents underestimate how much sleep their child needs, and that some parents don’t know what their “well-rested child” would really act like. Behavior problems can often be a perpetual lack of sleep. This can also be true of keeps and sugar. Parents may not know what their well-rested and unsugared child would look like. Further,
many parents drop rest/nap time too quickly. Or they will choose “rest time” is in front of a TV watching a video, where it seems like quiet time on their bed with some books would be a better choice. According to Dr. Weissbluth, MD and sleep researcher from Northwestern University School of Medicine: Four year olds on average get 13 hours of sleep per day. With 11-12 hours of nighttime sleep and at least one hour of daytime sleep.

Outside Time 
It is hard to be outside and not active…the two seemed to go hand in hand. The fresh air is good for kids and helps them sleep better too. As well, time outside in non-defined play (play that the story is not handed to the child) produces more creative thoughts and opportunities to explore their world. As well, with the discussions about obesity, fitness, and healthy eating, outside time can be a part of an overall healthy life.

Creative Time
Ever wonder why we loved a giant box over any other toy? There were no limits as to what it could be: a spaceship, car, castle, ice cream stand, tunnel into the center of the earth where there are golden fairies and monsters. Boxes are amazing! When kids can explore through their play, it helps them build neurological pathways differently than kids that have very defined play. For example, when a child has watched a specific TV show and then has action figures from that show, research shows that they tend to retell the story, rather than create completely new stories. Give kids the opportunities to create their own story lines and pictures.

Physical Touch
Kids need hugs, comfort, and to know that they are accepted, especially from the men in their lives. Physical touch helps them develop their senses. The Harvard University Gazette stated, “Hugs are as vital to the health and development of infants as food and water, according to decades of research by a Harvard scientist.” (http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/1998/06.11/OfHugsandHormon.html). Although this focused on infants, it clearly continues throughout childhood (and maybe even adulthood, could an extra hug reduce your stress?).

With these four daily routines you will see your child’s behavior continue to improve and grow, further academic success later in life has been tied to all of these habits. Today is the best day to start!

Do you agree?

That’s it for now!

-Joe

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor, therapist, psychologist, and overall helper of people in Traverse City, MI. He has professional experience working with Community Mental Health, residential facilities, foster care, and private practice. As well, he is the author of the book “Practice of the Practice: Basics for Launching Your Private Practice” due to be released in June 2012. He is a frequent speaker and writer locally in Traverse City, Michigan, and nationally.

Blah in our Brains

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ask Joe
Think “Dear Abby” for a new generation. Each newsletter I will select one or more questions to answer. So if you have a parenting or mental wellness question, please send it my way. I’m sure others have the same question and could benefit. sanokcounseling@gmail.com

Dear Joe,
What are some approaches to improving bed time routines for my kids? They are 9, 12, and 13.
-I Need a Break, Kalamazoo, MI

Dear I Need a Break,
First start with their ages and how much time they need to sleep. Depending on their wake-up and bus times most 9 year old should be in bed between 8:00-9:00, however, since you have two old kids you may want to have the 9-year-old have and 8:30, 12-year-old 8:45, and 13-year-old 9:00. Until high school, most kids should go to bed prior to 9:30. Once you determine the times that you want, stick to them. Start the bed time routine at least 15 minutes before, that means no TV for the 15-30 minutes before bed.

One technique that seems to work well is the have weekend bedtimes based on weeknight compliance. For example, “If you go to bed at 8:30 during the week for 3 nights, your weekend bedtime is 8:45, 4 nights 9:00, all 5 nights 9:30.” This provides a clear positive consequence for the desired behavior. Some families create charts to keep track. Also, tying their behavior to the social skill of “building trust” can help. For example, “Thanks for being in bed on time. By doing that, you are showing me that I can trust you to do what you need to do.” Then, when they ask if they can do something, you can say, “You know, you have done a great job building trust at bedtime, sure you can go to the store with your friend.”

Give those strategies a whirl and let me know how it goes.
I hope that helps.

-Joe

Have a question for Joe? Email him and ask, what’s stopping you? Really, you know you want to:
Click here to ASK JOE 

Blah in Our Brains
By Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC
I hate the time change. I don’t understand why during the darkest part of the year, we make it darker. I would much rather have it stay dark until 10:00 am and have light in the evening. But maybe that’s just me. This time of year triggers in people a sense of fatigue, sadness, depression, and feelings of blah. Whether you deal with clinical depression, seasonal affective disorder, or feelings of blah, there are several things you can do that will help you feel better.

Get More Light
Even when it is light outside, it seems to still be cloudy in Northern Michigan. A window usually is not enough. Regular lights do not capture the full light spectrum. They usually only have the blues and violets. Getting outside and sitting by a window will help, but changing some of your bulbs in your office or home to full-spectrum light bulbs can really help. A number of studies have shown that full-spectrum light can help with depression, sadness, and the feelings of blah (blah is not a clinical term used in research studies). Bulbs usually run $14-$24 dollars, a lot cheaper than therapy.

Get More Exercise
Exercise releases natural endorphins in your body. I was at the University of Michigan Depression Conference last year and one speaker was discussing how some studies are showing that exercise paired with counseling can be more effective than psychiatric medication. Even a short walk or taking the stairs can be helpful.

Get More Veggies
Fruits and vegetables can help with replenishing the body’s nutrients. Loads of colors in your diet are helpful. A diet of reduced processed foods helps to make the brain more receptive to light and exercise during the winter months. WedMD has a number of helpful nutrition suggestions,http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/diet-recovery

Get More Socialization
When I work with clients dealing with depression they often get into a cycle of alone time. They don’t feel like going out or doing anything which makes them feel like they don’t want to go out and do anything. During winter months we often feel like we want to hunker down and stay home. Socialization and new activities help us free up the blah in our brain.
Once you try these tips, you will hopefully see changes. With that said, you also need to know when to talk with your health care provider about pursuing additional options.
As with any change, it is better to start small and make little changes that you can do. Maybe for you a step would be to change a light bulb, go for a daily walk, eat broccoli again, or plan a potluck with friends or family. The hardest part is taking a step in the right direction, after that you will pick up momentum and have a blah-free winter.

Do you agree?


Resources 
University of Michigan has a great set of resources called The Depression Tool Kit. There are videos, worksheets, and tons of resources. Check it out, it will help you and/or the people you work with! http://www.depressiontoolkit.org/

That’s it for now. Do good to others and keep in touch!

-Joe

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor, therapist, psychologist, and overall helper of people in Traverse City, MI. He has professional experience working with Community Mental Health, residential facilities, foster care, and private practice. As well, he is the author of the book “Practice of the Practice: Basics for Launching Your Private Practice” due to be released in June 2012. He is a frequent speaker and writer locally in Traverse City, Michigan, and nationally.

Ask Joe

Therapy family counseling Traverse City

Ask Joe
Think “Dear Abby” for a new generation. Each newsletter I will select one or more questions to answer. So if you have a parenting or mental wellness question, please send it my way. I’m sure others have the same question and could benefit. joe@mentalwellnesscounseling.com Dear Joe,
There is so much in the news these days about sexual orientation and tolerance in schools and communities (anti-bullying, etc.) and I’ve seen videos about people who knew at a very young age that they were “different” but never know how to deal with it, or what it meant. How should a parent talk to a child about “being gay” if they suspect that their child may show signs of homosexuality? A parent wouldn’t want to frighten a child by insinuating this about them, but wants them to know that they are loved and accepted no matter what. How do you think such a conversation could go?
Please Help- Traverse City, MI

Dear Please Help,
Thanks for this question. Yes, this is a topic that many parents are concerned about. As well, we as a community need to look at this issue, especially because suicide amongst GLBTQ teens is shown to be higher. I think that there is a three-prong approach regarding the topic of homosexuality and talking with your kids.

1. Create an environment that is conducive to conversations about the issue. If someone in your home, on TV, or somewhere else says something like, “That’s so gay” meaning “That’s so stupid” correct them. As you work to create a home where it is safe to discuss these issues, it makes questions of homosexuality or really any difficult conversation easier for your child. No matter what your beliefs about homosexuality or faith perspective, you want your kids to be able to talk with you about the issues they are concerned about.

2. Engage in non-threatening conversation. There’s a reason that schools start with birds and bees before they teach kids the whole story. It helps kids learn the whole context of sexuality. As a result, it is also healthy to take this approach when there are gay characters on TV, movies, or in the headlines. For example, Traverse City just had a vote on an ordinance regarding GLBTQ issues surrounding employment and housing. Asking your kids about their thoughts on these types of things can be a non-threatening way to discuss the issue. Also, talking about characters in TV, what they are thinking, how they are acting, and what your kids think are important. Rather than just telling them what you think, tech them to think. Part of your role as a parent it to teach your child how to engage in the world as a thinking citizen.

At the heart of these discussions is that your kids should feel that they are being listened to. If your child tells their thoughts, only to be told that they are not correct, they will be less likely to ask you questions. Do you want them going to their friends instead? Who knows what kind of misinformation they may get. So make sure you are educated on the issue and if you are not sure, just tell your child, “I don’t know, but let’s research it together.”

3. Don’t press the issue. Once you have created a sound environment and showed that questions are ok, let you child make steps in their decisions as to how to express their sexuality. For them, they may need time to process their sexuality. Mentioning that you will always love them no matter what can be helpful, as long as it does not come out of no where, but in the context of a conversation. Some kids come out in high school, others college, others may be straight, but just are more effeminate. During this time of stepping back, educate yourself as much as you can.

I hope that helps.

-Joe

Have a question for Joe? Email him and ask, what’s stopping you? Really, you know you want to:
Click here to ASK JOE 

Setting a Good Example
From http://parenting.org/article/setting-good-example
We often hear the expression, “Children are like sponges,” uttered by parents, grandparents, educators and counselors. This phrase captures the reality that children are always learning from what they see and hear, and that the vast majority of what they learn comes from watching their parents. Parents can model a variety of behaviors to their children, including how to behave appropriately when angry.
Role Modeling and Anger
Anger is a naturally occurring emotion that cannot be avoided. All kinds of circumstances can trigger it. Parents model for their children how, and how not, to manage anger every day. Parents teach their children to manage anger well when they remain calm, cool and collected even when they’re upset over a circumstance or behavior. Parents teach their children how to manage anger poorly when they yell, become aggressive, throw things, slam doors or swear in response to angry emotions.
Wherever you fall in the spectrum of being a good or poor manager of your anger, here are six valuable strategies that can help you improve your and your child’s behavior.
1.    Make a list. Think about instances where you managed your anger well and times when you didn’t. Record when and where those times happened, and who and what tends to set you off.
2.    Evaluate your behavior. Assess the reasons behind the times when you managed your anger well. Identify what helped you control your anger.
3.    Assess your anger. Reflect on situations when you are likely to become angry and not manage your anger well. Determine if you tend to lose your temper at certain times of day, with certain people or in certain circumstances.
4.    Watch yourself. Pay attention for a few days to how you act when you are angry or frustrated. Ask yourself if the behavior you display when you’re angry is something you want your child to imitate. Decide to practice good behavior and discontinue bad responses to anger.
5.    Express yourself. Decide how you can express yourself better when you are angry. Think of and practice situations that typically make you angry. Then visualize yourself having a positive, rather than negative, response.
6.    Communicate. Tell your child that you are working to manage your anger better. Apologize if you have mistreated him or her when you felt angry. Tell your child you will do your best to act differently in the future. Make a commitment to change.
Another good tactic is to ditch the age-old saying, “Do as I say and not as I do.” It doesn’t help you be a better parent and it doesn’t help your child grow into a responsible, successful adult. Understand that children most often copy what they see and not what they hear. Commit to being a positive role model for your child to imitate. Let your children see you manage your anger in a positive way by expressing it appropriately and calmly, without raising your voice or your hand. Doing so will speak louder than angry words ever could.
Do you agree?


Resources
This is a great “Happiness Quiz” that will give you resources and ideas on how to improve happiness. A lot of the suggestions are based on strong research: http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/science-of-happiness/happiness-quiz/

That’s it for now. Do good to others and keep in touch!

-Joe

 

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor, therapist, psychologist, and overall helper of people in Traverse City, MI. He has professional experience working with Community Mental Health, residential facilities, foster care, and private practice. As well, he is the author of the book “Practice of the Practice: Basics for Launching Your Private Practice” due to be released in June 2012. He is a frequent speaker and writer locally in Traverse City, Michigan, and nationally.

Tired Parents

 

Counseling "Traverse City"
Counseling "Traverse City"

 

Ask Joe
Think “Dear Abby” for a new generation. Each newsletter I will select one or more questions to answer. So if you have a parenting or mental wellness question, please send it my way. I’m sure others have the same question and could benefit. sanokcounseling@gmail.com

Dear Joe,
I have a toddler will not take naps. They are clearly tired but it is always a fight. Usually he falls asleep, but it is always a battle. Any suggestions?
-Tired Parent in Kalamazoo, MI

Dear Tired Parent,
There are a few factors to take into account. First you’ll want to watch for sleep signs and second you will want to monitor overall sleep patterns. Kids in the 0-5 range give a number of clues they are tired well before they are cranky. Our 5-month daughter will scratch her ears, rub her eyes, yawn, and just seem to be slowing down. As kids grow, they want to stay engaged so they fight the body’s natural slow down. We as parents need to be asking ourselves if they are slowing down or waking up? If they are slowing down, we need to reduce stimuli and make it easier to transition into sleep. Some parents are fearful of stopping a TV show or activity if they see sleep signs. But this is a very important step. Imagine if your child was extremely hungry, you would try and give them a snack. Sleep is the same kind of need.

Second, in the book and blog “Happy Sleep Habits, Happy Child” by Dr. Weissbluth (see www.weissbluthmethod.wordpress.com), he discusses how sleep perpetuates sleep. Therefore, if your child is going to bed too late, it will hurt nap time routines. Most kids need 12-14 hours of sleep. This isn’t just 0-5 year olds, older kids need 10-12 too! When the overall sleep plan is developed, while also looking at sleep signs, the nap time ritual should get easier.

-Joe

Have a question for Joe? Email him and ask, what’s stopping you? Really, you know you want to:
Click here to ASK JOE 

Sixth-Grade Developer Teaches Students How to Make Apps
http://www.good.is/post/this-sixth-grade-developer-is-teaching-students-how-to-make-apps/

Where can today’s students go to learn how to make an app? That’s the question Thomas Suarez, a sixth-grader from suburban Los Angeles, asked himself after realizing that most of his peers like to play games and use apps, but schools don’t teach the basic programming skills needed to make them. So Suarez, who taught himself how to make apps using the iPhone software development kit—he created the anti-Justin Bieber, Whac-a-Mole-style game “Bustin Jieber”—decided to start an app club at school.

Suarez has been a technophile since kindergarten, and he already knows several programming languages. At a recent TEDx conference, he explained how students in the app club get the opportunity to learn and share their app making with each other. The club even asked the school’s teachers what kinds of apps they could use in the classroom and then set out to design them.

Why isn’t an app club standard fare at schools like French or drama clubs? It would allow students to learn both problem-solving skills and programming basics in a practical, fun way. Let’s hope Suarez’s app club idea spreads so that more kids can make the transition from app user to app developer. Do you agree?


R
esources
Get some great free music through Groove Shark (www.grooveshark.com). It uses an online playlist, so it is not illegal. My daughter really likes Johnny Cash’s Children’s Albumn.

That’s it for now. Do good to others and keep in touch!

-Joe

 

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor, therapist, psychologist, and overall helper of people in Traverse City, MI. He has professional experience working with Community Mental Health, residential facilities, foster care, and private practice. As well, he is the author of the book “Practice of the Practice: Basics for Launching Your Private Practice” due to be released in June 2012. He is a frequent speaker and writer locally in Traverse City, Michigan, and nationally.

Giving Good Instructions to Children

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ask Joe
Think “Dear Abby” for a new generation. Each newsletter I will select one or more questions to answer. So if you have a parenting or mental wellness question, please send it my way. I’m sure others have the same question and could benefit. joe@mentalwellnesscounseling.com

Dear Joe,
I have taken away my child’s TV, but I still see them watching it when I get home from work. I give consequences and they won’t do them, any strategies?
-Frustrated in Traverse City

Dear Frustrated,
There are several approaches that may work. Rather than take away TV time when you are not there, try and institute changes when you are available. For example, say your child rolls her eyes and says something to you that warrents a consequence. Say to them, “Because you rolled your eyes and did not accept my decision tonight you will not have TV. However, you can choose to clean the bathroom as your consequence instead.” By giving them a choice, they are more likely to follow through.

If you have not been consistent in the past, your child will not expect you to follow through. Often times, parents feel they need to justify or convince their children. However, your actions of giving positive and negative consequences will speak much louder than anything you say. By building your skills and consistency, you are showing your child that you are someone they can trust. Good parenting leads to feelings of security and trust.
-Joe

Have a question for Joe? Email him and ask, what’s stopping you? Really, you know you want to:
Click here to ASK JOE 

Giving Good Instructions to Children

From www.parenting.org
Author:

Deanne C. Haisch, M.A., LMHP

Does getting your child to do something feel like an impossible task? One of the reasons may be the way in which you are asking. Children are not necessarily receptive to the types of verbal instruction that we use with our spouse, colleagues or other adults. Instructions for children must be given in a way that they understand. Below are some helpful hints on how to give kids instructions that will make both you and your child more successful.

Get your child’s attention – Make sure that you have your child’s attention before you give a direction. You should be within three feet of your child so you can talk in a normal or calm voice. This helps your child know that you are talking to him/her. You can get your child’s attention by calling his/her name, making eye contact, or turning off the lights.

  • Be clear and concise – Instructions should be short and to the point. The fewer words the better. A good guide is one word per year of life. (ex. Instruction for a two-year-old might be “shoes on”; where a five-year-old might be “go get your shoes on”). If there are too many words, it becomes more difficult for the child to know what is expected. The instruction should also be free of vague words.
  • Give one instruction at a time – Do not give your child a long list of instructions. When you give more than one instruction at one time, your child may forget, not understand, or feel overwhelmed.
  • Be realistic – Give your child instructions that you know he/she can follow. For example, do not expect a 3-year-old to get completely dressed by him/herself.
  • Be positive – Let your child know what you want them to do rather than not to do. When we only describe the negative behavior “don’t run” we still leave many other options available (skipping, hopping, etc.). Telling the child what we want them to do “walk, please.” Does not allow for any other options.
  • Don’t ask, tell – Do not ask your child to do something. Instead, tell your child in a firm but pleasant voice what you want them to do. Do not say “will you go brush your teeth?” To the child this implies that they have a choice. Instead, say “go brush your teeth.”
  • Reward compliance – let your child know that he/she did a good job following the instruction. Praise your child. The more you praise your child the better the chances that he/she will follow directions in the future.

Examples of Good Instructions:

  • John, give me the truck.
  • Lindsey, go wash your hands.
  • Dylan, look at the book.
  • Taylor, put three blocks in the bucket.
  • Jessie, walk next to me.

Resources
Learn about kids and sleep:
http://www.sleepforkids.org/
http://kidshealth.org/kid/stay_healthy/body/not_tired.html

That’s it for now. Do good to others and keep in touch!

-Joe

 

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor, therapist, psychologist, and overall helper of people in Traverse City, MI. He has professional experience working with Community Mental Health, residential facilities, foster care, and private practice. As well, he is the author of the book “Practice of the Practice: Basics for Launching Your Private Practice” due to be released in June 2012. He is a frequent speaker and writer locally in Traverse City, Michigan, and nationally.

Four Parenting Tips

Counseling Traverse City

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four Parenting Tips

Parenting can be so complex, here are some quick tips to get you going:

1. Start observing: When you review your child’s behavior, what do you see, hear, and observe. What is your starting point? Once you establish the description of behavior, it will be easier to determine what you want to change. What is normal for them? Do they do the behavior one time a day, hour, week?

2. What are they getting?: Kids do behaviors for a reason, it is your job to figure out what that reason is. Are they avoiding something? Gaining something? Usually they are trying to gain something positive or avoid something negative. After you know what they are doing (step 1) and know what they are getting/avoiding, you can create a plan.

3. Plan for change: You want to make your path the easier path for your child. This can be through setting up positive consequences (privileges or praise) or negative consequences (chores and time away from things they like). Once you start your plan, you will want to see how you are doing.

4. Review how you and your child are doing: After you begin your plan, check in with your child. Say something like, “A week ago you were saying ‘no’ 2-3x per day, but I’ve noticed that it has really gone down.” Also, evaluate your own consistency and quality.

Starting with these four steps are a great way to start working on specific behaviors.

If this newsletter got forwarded to you, you can sign up to get each and every issue, www.mentalwellnesscounseling.com

Resources
This is a great video about our changing world and what it will take for our kids to get jobs! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SuNx0UrnEo

That’s it for now, keep in touch!

-Joe

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a counselor, therapist, psychologist, and overall helper of people in Traverse City, MI. He has professional experience working with Community Mental Health, residential facilities, foster care, and private practice. As well, he is the author of the book “Practice of the Practice: Basics for Launching Your Private Practice” due to be released in June 2012. He is a frequent speaker and writer locally in Traverse City, Michigan, and nationally.