Archive for April, 2009

Child Discipline – One Size Does Not Fit All

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

All you have to do is Google “child discipline” and you’ll find tons of websites and advertisements about managing your child’s behavior.  There are countless choices and many make some pretty strong claims.  So what’s the truth here? Is there really a child discipline program that can turn your child’s behavior around 180 degrees?

Let me give you my credentials for speaking on the subject.  I’m a mom of three girls under the age of ten, so I’ve done my fair share of disciplining.  Also, I am a mental health counselor with experience doing intense in-home family therapy.  With all that out of the way, I’ll also say that I haven’t reviewed any of the more well-known discipline programs out there.  What I can say is this – no child discipline program is one-size-fits-all.  No program will work for everyone.  Nothing cures bad behavior for good.  Anyone trying to tell you these things is selling you a false promise.

I’m not saying there aren’t useful techniques and information in all kinds of self help books, behavior programs, etc.  There are so many good resources out there for parenting and discipline.  If you are having some real challenges, you know it’s time to try new things and get a different perspective.

Before looking into a certain approach, do more research to understand possible and likely causes for repeated misbehavior.  A child reacting to a death in the family needs to be treated differently than a child who’s been overindulged by their parents.  Undiagnosed vision and hearing problems, reactions to food allergies, stress about being bullied, developmental disorders, and learning disabilities can all cause odd or even defiant behavior in children.  Having one of these issues is NOT an excuse to allow bad behavior.  But a cookie-cutter approach won’t be the best for all of these problems either.

The best advice here is to have an open mind.  Read a variety of books, try counseling, try other self-help options if need be.  Just don’t let yourself get too caught up in a magic bullet “we have the total answer” sell-job.  If …

Parenting Mistakes Are Usually Survivable and Forgivable

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

If I could go through just one day with my kids without making a parenting mistake – what a day that would be!  No grouchiness in the morning, the right answer to their curious question after school, the ideal mood at bedtime to induce cooperation and quick slumber.  Hmmm….no, no, and no.  Where did I go wrong, and can I
salvage their childhoods?

There is no such thing as a perfect parent – don’t even go there.  Latching on to perfectionism will lead you straight to a life of misery, and probably an anxiety or depression disorder.  No, kids don’t need their parents to be perfect, and thank goodness.  They just need their parents to do their best.

Fortunately, kids are quite resilient.  No matter what is going on, they really just want to be loved and know they matter to you.  The rest is all negotiable gray areas anyway.  If you had to live in a cardboard box with your mom or live in a great neatly kept house with strangers, where would you rather live?  Kids who feel
loved and valued by their parents would live in the box.

Kids are willing to forgive when you show true remorse for snapping, forgetting something important, or wrongly accusing them.  Whatever your transgression, it’s the opportunity to reconnect and be honest that really matters.  Believe me, they’ll hope to get your forgiveness some days – like when they burn a hole in the carpet or dent your car goofing off with their friends.

When you make them feel uncomfortable by giving good solid discipline, this is no time for apologies.  Seeing them cry or be mad at you is a result of their mistake, not yours.  Maybe this is speaking to the obvious, but don’t confuse this kind of situation with one where you clearly make a blunder.  When you mess up, it’s your job to make it right with them.

If you need to make amends, you don’t need to say a lot.  Just be genuine and offer affection.  They may not want it right then, but let them know the …

How Not To Help Your Family Member With Anxiety

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Yesterday I was out of town at a counseling conference about anxiety.  It was so fascinating, and I scribbled all over my booklet with little brain bursts.  I realized that I needed to readjust some of my thoughts on managing anxiety.  Makes me wonder how many other people who deal with anxiety need some new info, too.

So here is a short list of some things I learned yesterday about how to help your family member with anxiety, and some things that could make it worse.

What Not To Do For Anxiety

* Being “too helpful” – When your mom feels like she just can’t get through that church luncheon without you there to calm her down, you might be giving too much help.  That keeps the idea in her mind that her “survival” through her anxiety is due to you rather than anything she might be doing to calm herself.

* Saying – “Just relax” – Most people can’t relax at the flip of a switch.  It often takes practice and time to really feel it.  And if you have spent a good amount of time feeling NOT relaxed, how do you even know how to get there?  This well-meaning comment can actually reinforce how much they can’t relax.

* Saying – “Just think about something happy, or something that doesn’t stress you out”.  Well, if someone says, “Think about something other than the bad economy,” what’s the very first thing that pops into your mind?  The bad economy!!  It comes up because it was suggested or it was already there.  Then you are given the suggestion to stop thinking about it, but it’s all you can do.  Once again, a feeling of failure and shame can come from this.

These are just a few of the things that you or someone else might say to their loved ones with anxiety.  You can see them suffering, you hear it in their words, you notice behaviors that don’t seem quite right.  Of course, you want to help, but what can you do that will actually help?

Help Your Anxious Family Member Really …

Children Behave Differently Without Siblings Around

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Yes, the title seems like a statement from Captain Obvious.  But really, it’s a truth that is easy to forget.  Many of us have a whirlwind of children spinning around us each day.  Together, they often make up the perfect storm of whining, complaining, conspiracies of who did what to whom, and loud voices.  Calgon,
where’s my Calgon commercial??  Please take me away right now!

But, when these darling offspring of ours become a temporary only child, a transformation takes place.  Instead of the whiny youngest kid who still wets their pants now and then, you have the “model guest” at the grandparents house for the weekend.  Instead of the bossy domineering oldest child, you get the curious enthusiastic explorer at the library and the museum.  Instead of the moody and somewhat over-dramatic middle child, you get the quiet lighthearted sprite who just wants to be in your aura.

What is this voodoo about, anyway?  Who implants alien technology in their brains and turns on the wildness of sibling scream-fests???  Where are these docile, happy, cooperative children when we could really use the docile, happy cooperation?

It’s called family dynamics, plain and simple.  Everyone acts someone differently when they are with one other person as compared to two or more other people.  It gets even trickier when you have two or more generations involved.  Siblings have their own little sub-hierarchy to manage.  Parents and grandparents have varying levels of authority with each other and across the child generation.

So when a parent or grandparent gets a child all to themselves, don’t you think the kid just laps up the monopolized attention?  Can you see how that could bring out the best in them much of the time?  Competition is fine and natural, but there is just something different about having the spotlight all to yourself.

You as the parent or grandparent change somewhat, too.  Gone is the verbage about breaking up this fight or sending someone to the corner.  You have a better chance of resolving conflicts because it is just between the two of you.  You aren’t dealing with two …

Marital Separation and Divorce Can Affect Kids For Years

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Healthy family dynamics help keep kids and parents running on the right track.  Parents are in charge, kids follow until they leave the nest.  Parents take care of parent issues, kids come to parents and don’t run the show.  That is, until a divorce or long separation takes place.

When this happens, the family dynamics can get all turned around.  An oldest son might be expected to be the “man” of the family for a while.  Or they may simply go into that role believing it would help.  A daughter might become a close confidant (friend) of a mom who’s been left behind.  A dad and daughter may act more like companions after mom has moved out.  All of these arrangements can cause kids to leave their childhood behind before they are ready.

No matter how amicable a separation or divorce may be, such a huge change has inevitable impact.  Where there was someone taking a role before, now there is no one.  Or there is someone, but they are different (girlfriend, new spouse).  This different person may or may not be well liked by all the kids or parents.

In cases where this goes as well as possible, the negative impact makes a less damaging blow.  Don’t underestimate a child’s sense of loss when this happens.  But overall, they have a better chance of making the adjustment.  Openness and free expression of emotion help the child keep their footing.

If there has been a lot of yelling, cold silence, slamming doors, name calling, or other ongoing drama, a separation or divorce is likely to be more difficult.  For a child, the atmosphere doesn’t feel too safe.  They might hold back their feelings to not upset others.  Or, they might get out of control and start acting out themselves.  Family dynamics like this can cause a child to stop in their tracks with emotional development.

When a child loses their sense of security at home because of dramatic change or loss (for whatever reason), there is a good chance they could become stuck emotionally.  If a divorce happened when they …

How To Guarantee A Stressful Day For The Whole Family

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Yesterday was Wednesday, which for me means “taxi mom”.  Yeah, I know a lot of you moms AND dads out there know what that is.  Constant frantic driving back and forth all across town, breaking up your day, evening, or weekend into practically unusable chunks of time.  Dads, many of you do your share, too.

Take a look at my genius move, folks.  Wednesdays in my life are absolutely ridiculous.  I take my older two daughters to elementary school at 8 a.m.   About an hour later, I take my five year old to dance class.  An hour and fifteen minutes later, I pick her up.

I push her to eat a quick lunch, change clothes, and get out the door.  She resists and becomes crabby, usually making us late to preschool at noonish.  I get her at 2:30, then the other two at 3:00.  Then the rounds of older girl dance classes begin.  Drop off, drop off, pick up, pick up, all about an hour apart.  Everyone’s exhausted, hungry, and sick of running everywhere.  The madness all ends at about 7:30 when I’m back home with my last pick-up of the day.

Somewhere in between the evening drop-offs and pick-ups, I really stop caring.  I’m often cooking in stages while I’m home in chunks of thirty eight minutes at a time.  When I’ve been really clever, I have had something in the slow cooker that day.  That’s happened all of one time, I think.

I’m grumpy, sometimes late for each trip around town, and totally not in the mood to play checkers, find someone’s missing school paper, or hear about the latest dirty clothes issue.  Supper is hit-or-miss for my husband and the girls, and I’m not a very pleasant mom or wife by then.  Everybody loses here.

Sigh….so how did I do this to myself?  I created a day that I hate before it starts.  It gets me agitated and irritable in predictable ways, and it always seems to end in chaos.  Yes, “I” …

Postpartum Depression: What Would Have Made The Difference?

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Today I am officially throwing my post in the ring for the postpartum depression blogging week.  There’s a great post by Dr. Grohol on the main blog, and several other postpartum depression  advocates have been writing some really good stuff so far this week.  I’ve read many of the responses to these posts, some supportive and some in opposition.  I’d like to share some of my own thoughts on this, especially what might have made the difference for me.

I read something about how not messing with our biology (ie: no medication) would allow natural hormones to do their thing, thus inducing a bonding experience.  I thought about this for some time and wondered how that approach might have affected me.  Because my first daughter came so quickly, I had absolutely no medication for my birthing experience.  I had just the usual IV for fluids.  I never took birth control either before that pregnancy, only years later when my husband and I decided to have no more children.  I had no psychiatric medications of any kind during this experience either.  My birthing experience was actually quite “natural”, at least with regards to my body.

Despite this lack of artificial hormones or SSRI’s or even pain medication, I still had postpartum depression and premenstrual dysphoric disorder for three and a half years.  I had one other pregnancy in between, and THAT seemed to be my “cure” for a while.  although honestly, I didn’t even understand the pattern was happening that way.  I’ve only figured that out very much after the fact.  I never really felt bad during my pregnancies.  It was only after the birth that I experienced the gradual decline of PPD then the ups and downs of PMDD.

Here’s what else happened after this.  My daughter was born with a cleft palate and lip.  She had many doctor’s visits and a handful of surgeries during her first year.  I was in front of so many medical professionals I lost count.  Not one single person asked me how I was really coping with all of this.  Don’t get …

Discoveries About My Postpartum Depression Years Later

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Today I came across an article by Susan Dowd Stone, reproductive mental health expert.  The article was about the myths of postpartum depression that keep moms from getting help.  I thought I knew what I would be reading, but I was wrong.  I got a surprise.

It started out describing depictions of postpartum moms on popular TV shows.  Not all of these were positive or accurate.  She went on to wonder how these shows could possibly encourage suffering mothers to reach out for help.  And I agreed – the sensationalism on TV shows makes a lot of things look pretty scary.

Here’s where I got my surprise.  Susan said that many moms would see those shows and be relieved that she certainly wasn’t like one of “those crazy moms” on TV.  Often, a mom with postpartum depression is more agitated with activity than slow and lethargic.  Since they appear to function, depression can be easy to write off – both by the mom and those around her.

Here are some of the phrases that most tugged at me from her article:
-plowing through each isolating day
-toughing it out, week after hellish week
-crying to herself and hiding the extent of her disability from those she loves and even
from herself
-because their symptoms do not equal the extreme drama portrayed in such stories,  that they do not have    postpartum depression
-she feels she merits no special notice

Whoa, folks.  We are talking about me here back in the days of my depression.  In the years since my recovery, I have often wondered how in the world that I, a trained mental health counselor, could somehow misunderstand my own depression.  I have had trouble explaining it to friends and family who seemed surprised to hear that I even had it at all.

I know that I looked pretty bedraggled the first several months after my oldest daughter was born.  She needed lots of medical attention at that time and was still eating in the night a couple of times.  I was missing a lot of sleep and rightfully looked run down.  But that was easy to …

Family Mental Health Blog – Let Me Introduce Myself

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Hello!  I’m Erika, and I’m excited to be writing to you on my new blog.  I’m not completely new to Psych Central readers.  I’ve written a few long articles and had some blog posts on the World of Psychology blog since the beginning of 2009.

As somber as some of the topics are on this website, writing for Psych Central has been a lot of fun.  I often “think out loud,” which means I sometimes ramble on before I really get to my point.  Writing gives me the chance to choose my words carefully and deliberately.  I love the process of taking my raw idea and seeing it take shape on the screen.

My interest in psychology is both personal and professional.  As a licensed counselor with a master’s degree, I’ve had specialized training and a variety of experiences helping people.  As a new mom, I experienced a few years of postpartum depression and PMDD (severe mood swings in timing with the menstrual cycle).  I have a unique understanding of mental health issues from the inside out.  I write both to share my knowledge and to process some of my own experiences.

Sometimes, coming up with a fresh writing topic has been a challenge.  I’ve thought to myself, “How in the world am I going to write something today?”  The funny part is that this roadblock has often opened my eyes to ideas I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.   I’ve been learning to let my curiosity create something meaningful out of something ordinary.  Now I realize that practically every day brings good topics for blog posts, sometimes more!  Humanity and psychology are all around me, and all around you.  Seek and ye shall find.

On this blog, I’ll be exploring a variety of topics all touching on the family and mental health.  That includes divorce, teens, kids, family dynamics, pregnancy related depression, parenting, and more.  If you have a specific topic you’d like me to address, drop a comment and let me know.  I will do my best to get some conversation going and get a good …

Welcome to Family Mental Health

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

I’m pleased to welcome you to our newest blog, on Family Mental Health, with Erika Krull. Erika has been blogging with us from time to time on World of Psychology, and she wanted to spread her wings into the area of mental health and family issues.

Family mental health is a wide-ranging topic area, covering everything from parenting tips to raising children in an increasingly attention-deficit world. Erika Krull will bring you insights and opinions about how families deal with their problems, and offer tips and suggestions on how families can become more aware of their dynamics and mental health.

I’m looking forward to all the information and advice Family Mental Health will be bringing on topics from PMDD and dealing with depression related to pregnancy (postpartum depression), to how family and child therapy works and fits into a holistic treatment strategy for your child.

Please join me in welcoming Erika Krull to her own blog!


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