Join me, September 23rd, from 12:15 pm to 1 pm (Pacific Standard Time) for the latest FamilyHealer.TV “Conversations”: This weeks topic is how to “Break the Cycle of Fear and Worry in Children”.
This is an education and supportive Zoom event. Parents and professionals will not want to miss this one! In this conversation, we will look at why children have anxiety, how to increase your child’s Emotional IQ, what parents can say to comfort their children, and how to help children become Worry Warriors and Fear Fighters!
This Conversations Show is part of our training course “Big Worries” at FamilyHealer.tv.
*The training portion will be recorded. Q and A is private.
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Join me Thursday, September 16 at 12:15 pm (PST) for this live zoom event! We will be discussing practical parenting tools for adoptive parents. This is a 45 minute, interactive, seminar for adoptive parents and the professionals who work with them…and best of all it is FREE!
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Social media has become an integral part of our everyday lives. Parents use it, just like their children. However, on average, teenagers are the ones who spend the most time on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and similar platforms. These platforms confuse and frighten parents!
According to the report, Common Sense Media, teens spend about 9 hours on entertainment media, including social media, games, and TV, every day.
This means that teenagers spent more time with media and technology than with parents, school work, or physical activities.
Parents probably ask themselves: “Will my child become addicted to video games? Will this ruin their ability to think for themselves? What happens if my child is cyberbullied or becomes one? Could an online predator harm my child? Will continual screen use diminish their ability to know how to socialize normally?”
As a Child and Family Therapist, I believe parents are right to ask these questions. The issue is how to get to the answers!
Our current world makes getting answers challenging. Before the pandemic, many parents banned social media, screen use, and cell phone ownership from children, including their teenagers. After the pandemic, many children were isolated from peers without any possible way to connect. Parents had no choice but to let their children go online to stem the growing anxiety and depression their children were experiencing from the isolation. During the pandemic, children were doing school online, but many parents discovered they were “multitasking” and playing games online or talking to friends via social media while participating in school. Being online, for school or social connection, is now a regular part of our lives. It isn’t going away anytime soon.
Why are we concerned? Studies show that social media and online video games reduce our effectiveness in understanding human emotion and create a barrier to communicating deeply. There is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. The more teens spend online, the more shallow their communication and empathy skills could be. The teen years is a crucial time for skills that will sustain them in adulthood and the right mix requires real face-to-face interaction along with screen time.
Our brains use “mirror neurons” to understand others’ perspectives and emotions through an inner imitation of other people’s actions. These special neurons reproduce emotions and actions in ourselves. This can be outside of our awareness and contributes to “gut reactions” and inform us on knowing right from wrong. It is the key to developing empathy and compassion as our neurons mirror the pain witnessed in other people. When they feel it we feel it too.
Perhaps this is why cyberbullying has become such a problem with preteens and teenagers? Maybe they cannot feel the pain and suffering of the peers they are tormenting. Without that feedback loop, they lose the natural conscience we need in social situations. Mirror neurons are also a prime component of learning, and this might account for the massive drop in school grades and homework performance. There is more to learning than facts and information. The joy of learning and the social connections that physical schools provide are a necessary part of a teens social emotional growth.
Of course, not all teens are engaged in cyberbullying or looking at inappropriate content. Many really just want to have fun and connect with peers. Teens can learn valuable things online. Additionally, many teens have found groups that support and encourage them through unique challenges in life situations, like mental health or artistic/cultural pursuits. This can’t always be found in our local community. Balance is needed and parents may need to help teens find the good and minimize the bad.
Here are some tips to help you learn more about your teen’s social media interactions and help them if necessary:
Give yourself permission, as the parent, to ask your child about concerns they have or problems they have experienced. Maybe your teen never tells you anything because you never ask, or perhaps you ask in an anxious and condemning way. Don’t assume wrongdoing but don’t be in denial either.
If your teen gives you some pushback, don’t get offended when asked about social media use. These are normal human defenses. Just reassure them that you don’t believe they are doing something wrong but that you are curious and want to know more about social media and how it all works. Be curious and open-minded.
Get on social media yourself and learn how it works. Don’t depend on your teen to tell you everything or tell the right things. You can discover it yourself. I recommend parents friend or link to your child on various social media platforms – even though if they might think it weird. If they know you are online too and can see their content, they might think twice before posting something inappropriate. Sometimes being POTS (parent over the shoulder) has its benefits.
Parenting teens on social media might feel like the old adage: “If you can’t beat them, join them,” and that is exactly what this is…You can’t beat them, so you better join them in the online world!
If you have concerns about what your child is doing or they actively resist you finding out what they are posting or doing or who their friends are, that could be a red flag to pay attention to. Don’t go all “hair on fire” on them. Just note your concern and firmly investigate further. Don’t let a their resistance deter you. Ask questions of them, their friends, their friend’s parents, and look at their media on their devices when they sit them down. Yeah, they will get annoyed. They will live.
I tell parents, who have real concerns about their children’s social media use, insist on having all passwords, account names and even stalk them online! Sounds harsh? It is better to have an irritated teen than an exploited one or one in deep trouble with the school or law. Even the most innocent child can get caught up in things way beyond their developmental capacity to deal with…I have seen it happen many times over. Many teens have hidden accounts, back up phone in case you take theirs, borrow their friends phone, etc.
You are allowed to remove all devices if needed. They may have been gifts to your child, but that gift was intended to be used correctly and safely. As a side note, many teens who lose their devices start finding more outside entertainment or real world social interactions to engage in…they frequently come out of their rooms and talk to parents. Wow, so strange, but true.
Because of this fact, take a “social media fast” for the whole family from time to time. Ban all social media and screen use for a day or a weekend. Provide lots of fun alternatives and food. Food is always helpful! Once you get past the grumbling, the home atmosphere might become more positive.
Don’t focus so much on controlling the child as managing the media. Shaming and condemning don’t get positive results, and children can seek revenge. Be respectful but firm, loving but insistent. Tell them you are removing the devices because THEY are causing too many problems or distractions. You just want to help the ENTIRE family find a better focus and social interaction, not just the teenager, right?
Make discussions about the world and its problem a regular thing. Teenagers want and need support, and they don’t have adult wisdom and experience to manage life’s difficulties. You have to open the space to have these conversations. It may be awkward at first, but making them a normal car-ride conversation or over an after-school snack can open your child up to share their fears, anxiety, and needs.
Parents of teens cannot effectively use control to manage them. You have to use influence if you want to have a lasting effect. Your goal for this developmental stage is to train them for adulthood. It’s only a few years away. If you tell them what to do all the time versus helping them with the best solution and sometimes experience the negative consequences of life, they won’t be ready.
Parenting a teen is like when your child learned to walk. You couldn’t catch them every time but had to let them stumble and fall on occasions. You protected them against any serious threats (sharp objects, going into the street), but you cautiously walked alongside, encouraging and cheering on their successful steps until walking was natural. You can do this for social media and screen use too. Walk alongside them. Protect but don’t smother them. Steer them in the right direction and remove them from obvious dangerous situations. Bring a balance of off-screen activities to the family. And in the end, they will protect themselves, and be better human beings.
You just went through a pandemic. You have to give yourself time to heal from all the stress and trauma you have experienced. Even if you didn’t go through a global health crisis, lose your job, or have to deal with children doing school in your living room, you still need a self-care plan for your life.
You started the day ready to take on the world. From the moment you got out of bed, you’ve been thinking about all the things you’re going to get done today. You can’t wait to get started!
Then it all falls apart.
By the end of the day, you’re grumpy and out of sorts. The day somehow derailed, and here you are, feeling like you didn’t accomplish half the things you wanted to today. What happened?
Well, sometimes life really does get in the way. The car won’t start, or the dog gets out, and you spend half the morning chasing him around the neighborhood. Life gets in the way. More often than not, though, you likely did what most people do: you crashed and burned. Somewhere …you just ran out of energy.
So, how do you maintain your energy levels even on the toughest of days?
Check-in With Yourself
First of all, you need to be paying attention to your body a little bit more. If you can catch yourself right when your energy begins to waver, you might be able to stave off a massive crash later on. Frequently when we’re lagging, it’s because we need something small, like a drink of water, a little activity, or even a small snack. These are quick and easy fixes that only take a minute. Ignore them, though, and you’re libel to lose hours out of your day before you know it.
Engage in a Routine (or Two)
We tend to burn out energy because we’re scrambling to sort out our day and find the things we need. If you have a morning routine, for example, you’ll have everything near at hand right when you need it. Getting out of the door will take half the energy, giving you reserves for where you need it most. Ask yourself what parts of your day you can streamline by creating a routine and make sure to follow through with those routines as often as possible.
Become More Intentional
Too often, our day becomes filled with little nonsense tasks which take up energy and time. Really, what is it you need to do? What actions will leave the biggest impact on the day? Put your energy where it counts most by being more intentional in what you’re doing. Remember, you don’t have to be the one to do everything. Delegate the non-essential items to keep yourself focused on what matters.
Get to Bed!
While a bedtime routine is a great start, pay more attention to your sleep. Create a sleep environment that is free from noise and distraction. Make sure your room is at an optimal temperature, and yes, if need be, invest in a better mattress or new pillows. Getting a good night’s sleep will keep you more energetic throughout the day.
In this first video of five total video series on Building Family Resiliency we talk about how to manage anxiety in a time of uncertainty. Learn powerful tools that will help you and your children find freedom from anxious thoughts. Discover bodily-based strategies that don’t require lecture, rationalization, or complex ideas to bring peace to your life.
Get more free tools at FamilyHealer.tv or schedule a time to talk to Ron today!
What is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a one-on-one form of psychotherapy that is designed to reduce trauma-related stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and to improve overall mental health functioning.
Treatment is provided by an EMDR therapist, who first reviews the client’s history and assesses the client’s readiness for EMDR. During the preparation phase, the therapist works with the client to identify a positive memory associated with feelings of safety or calm that can be used if psychological distress associated with the traumatic memory is triggered. This is called the “Safe Place” and will be a baseline for the rest of the trauma work. The target traumatic memory for the treatment session is accessed with attention to image, negative belief, and body sensations.
Repetitive 30-second dual-attention exercises are conducted in which the client attends to a motor task while focusing on the target traumatic memory and then on any related negative thoughts, associations, and body sensations. The most common motor task used in EMDR is side-to-side eye movements that follow the therapist’s finger; however, alternating hand tapping or auditory tones delivered through headphones can be used. The exercises are repeated until the client reports no emotional distress.
The EMDR therapist then asks the client to think of a preferred positive belief regarding the incident and to focus on this positive belief while continuing with the exercises. The exercises end when the client reports with confidence comfortable feelings and a positive sense of self when recalling the target trauma. The therapist and client review the client’s progress and discuss scenarios or contexts that might trigger psychological distress. These triggers and positive images for appropriate future action are also targeted and processed.
In addition, the therapist asks the client to keep a journal, noting any material related to the traumatic memory, and to focus on the previously identified positive safe or calm memory whenever psychological distress associated with the traumatic memory is triggered.
Ronald Huxley can provide you with EMDR therapy that will decrease anxiety, calm overactive brains/nervous system, resolve past trauma. Contact Ron today by clicking the schedule a session today or call at 805-7090-2023.
Trauma impacts children’s ability to stay calm and focus. It disrupts normal developmental growth and makes learning hard. Parents and teachers can use these 10 trauma sensitive tools to have a calmer classroom (and home):
Model Emotional Self-Regulation by naming and responding to intense feelings.
Clear, Assertive, Comfortable Communication establishes trust and structure.
Use Suggestion Boxes and allow students to express needs and have a voice in their world.
Use “Two-By-Ten” to challenge students for 10 minutes two times a day to build connections.
Use Calming Corners filled with sensory items and thinking puzzles.
Consider Classroom Design to organize, label, and give clear directions.
School Discipline Policies can be communicated clearly and allow students to ask questions to increase ownership and empowerment.
Say “Ouch/Oops” to model social emotional learning skills and manage hurt feelings and conflicts in the classroom.
Take “Brain Breaks” throughout the day to stay grounded, prevent dissociation, and keep present focused.
Use Culturally Responsive and Faith-Based activities to allow the child to feel safe and comfortable and bridge trauma tools used in the home.
These are just a few of the trauma-informed tools and tips you can use when you take our free course at TraumaToolbox.com or contact Ron about holding a trauma-informed workshop at your school or agency. Email Ron at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 805-709-2023 today.
Some people have trouble making good decisions. Boundaries are a challenge and saying “no” feels impossible. For others, they are quite comfortable making decisions. They might even enjoy telling others what choices they should make. Parents often feel a need to tell children what to do all the time. They believe that children can’t or won’t make a good choice. As we contemplate the elements of control in our lives, we want to find that balance between laissez faire attitudes and acting like a control freak.
Making choices, even bad ones is a way to feel powerful. Many children and adults will act in the opposite manner just to feel some form of power in their own lives. Authority figures are seen as untrustworthy, no matter how experienced or wise they might be. That isn’t the point for a person who feels powerless. Control and the defiance that often comes with it feels like the only way to find power or freedom.
We value the freedom that can come through choices. It is one of America’s highest personal values. Unfortunately, freedom to do anything one wants, whenever one wants to do it, and not expect any real consequences is not true freedom. True freedom comes when we exercise self-control.
Ask Dr. Seuss, if you don’t believe me:
You have brains in your head,
You have feet in your shoes,
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
Sound advice. The trick is choosing the right direction!
Parents want children to listen and obey because they have more experience dealing with the complexities of life. Children want to assert their control in order to better know themselves. There are specific stages where this most evident, like in 2-3-year-old toddler stage and the 13-17 years of adolescence. The reason these ages and stages are so fraught with power struggles is because the child is going through rapid brain growth, hormonal changes, and social/emotional demands. That requires a lot of self-assertion in order to master it all.
As I have already described in other blog posts, a parents job should resemble a coach more than a director. While this isn’t always possible or practical, it is the healthier approach to successful parenting. A parent TELLS a child what to do. Children can’t become responsible human beings or eventual adults if they rely on parents what to do. Parents can expect more self-responsibility and problem-solving if they don’t let the child make choices.
A parent coach offers choices in order to empower children to learn from their choices. Isn’t this how we all learn? Of course, understanding this approach and performing it in the heat of the “battle” is difficult but that isn’t a reason not to use it. The good news is that the drive to choose is built into our nervous systems. You don’t have to tell a child to have an opinion. They already have one. You don’t have to model how to prefer for one type of food over the other or one game over the other. The child just does this naturally. Coaching allows us to direct what is already inborn. Parents should let it work to their advantage!
Forcing control, although at times necessary, shouldn’t be our primary parenting plan. Parents can give choices for things they approve of…usually two is good. If the child wants a third option, and they will, simply repeat the two choices and when the situation becomes a game, and it will, make the choice for the child. This is where parents can be direct and assert their wills. Pick your battles well in other words.
Researchers on control like to use the words “agency” or “self-efficacy”. I guess it sounds more clinical. The more agency we use in life the more power-full we feel. The more good decisions we make, the more confident we are to try new and more challenging things. Good deciders set bigger goals in life than bad deciders. They get along better with other people, can be better team players, have higher academic achievements and work ethics, and they are healthier and happier people overall.
That all sounds good until you make a few bad choices and start to believe that you don’t have the ability to make a good choice, ever! People who go through trauma often feel this way. Depression is a common hallmark of making bad choices or having gone through bad things. This is what researchers call “locus of control”. Someone with an internal locus of control believes they are the cause of a successful outcome. An extern locus of control refers to things happening by chance or luck. After a traumatic event or series of events, a person can feel helpless and have an external locus of control. If something good does happen, it is random and accidental.
It is possible to have an “illusion of control” where someone feels they can master things they really can’t. They don’t have an overdeveloped internal locus of control and may take on too many tasks or make claims of being able to accomplish tasks that are too difficult. They are ready to accept responsibility for success but blame others/events for failures. This illusion prevents them from really learning how to be successful in life. Much of wisdom comes from making mistakes and then trying a new approach next time.
The answer to all of this may be acceptance of reality. This is a philosophical idea and spiritual practice of letting go of expectations and desires that create most of our on-going suffering. When something happens that we don’t want or we don’t get what we do want, we suffer. The truth is everyone does this and everyone suffers. Acceptance allows us to be aware of it and adapt. We don’t blame others for our mistakes or at least, our part of a situation/problem. We are humble and try to find the wisdom of our failures. We don’t allow others to control us and we don’t use control to deal with anxiety. We simply allow what is to be and find the truth in the experience. As the Bible says, “Truth sets us free” (John 8:32).
Acceptance isn’t another form of helplessness, however. We accept our situation but continue to hope for change. Christians, for example, trust that God’s will, however difficult or uncertain, is the better choice over their own personal will. When the two wills conflict, we submit to God’s will. Continue to control people and events, in order to get what you want, alienates family and friends, and puts tension between your reality and your desire to have what you want. This tension will result in negative emotions and behaviors. Learning to accept and let go will allow using that energy to make the best of your situation. Now that does require self-control!
“Accept — then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. This will miraculously transform your whole life.” Eckhart Tolle
“Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.” William James
“The art of acceptance is the art of making someone who has just done you a small favor with that he might have done you a greater one.” Martin Luther King, Jr.