Archives for General


Surviving the Summer Blues

If there were no schools to take the children away from home part of the time, the insane asylums would be filled with mothers. -- Edgar W. Howe

Perhaps you have been enjoying your summer, getting extra time to have fun with your kids without the pressure of homework and extracurricular activities. Perhaps not.

Let’s face it, summer is a mixed bag. For working parents who don't get time off in the summer, it...
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Can TV, Videogames, and Computer Use Be Harming Your Teen’s Health?

Although worries about sex, drugs, and school still top the list when I talk to parents of teenagers, the issue of screen time, video games and social media sites often have parents and teens in bitter battles. What's a good parent to do?

According to a 2010 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average American youth spends eight to ten hours a day on some form of media--often more than one...
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Does Your Toddler Tweet? Protecting Young Kids on the Internet

Did you know that more than half of kids aged six to nine now use some kind of children’s social network? Or that 47 percent talk to their friends on the Internet? And that 14 percent are on Facebook in spite of the fact that they are underage? To top off these startling revelations of a new study is the distressing news that 58 percent of parents admit they are in the dark about what their kids are up to in our brave new world.

Our kids have been born into this world. They are “digital natives” and many parents and teachers are “digital immigrants,” trying to learn a new foreign language and enter a mysterious culture that is both unfamiliar and overwhelming. Some parents I talk to have stuck their heads in the sand, hoping it will all just go away. Not likely.

Our children are spending more and more time online—and this trend is only going to continue to soar as smart phones are in kids’ hands at younger and younger ages. It is imperative that parents educate themselves about how to protect their children in the new technological universe.
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Mean Girls and Bullying Boys: Pitfalls and Lessons for Parents

"Isn't it kind of silly to think that tearing someone else down builds you up?"  -Sean Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens

Just a few days ago, I was meeting with two teenage girls and their mom and dad. The parents wanted counseling to help them lessen the conflict and emotional volatility of their communications. The younger daughter, soon to go into eight grade, suddenly announced that she wanted to change schools in the fall to escape a group of horrendously mean girls at her junior high.

As the parents were alternately upset, speechless and defensive, the older sister chimed in with enormous empathy, having been the recipient of similar attacks a few years prior. Although I was sad to see the suffering of this close family, I was relieved that both girls were openly sharing their painful experiences, enlisting the support of their parents in the process.
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8 Insights to Keep Love Alive in Intimate Relationships

"Love doesn't just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new."   -Ursula K. LeGuin

In thirty-five years of counseling couples and families, I have continually been reminded about how little most of us are taught about specific tasks and principles for building and maintaining happy, loving relationships. There seems to be a myth afoot: once married, the relationship grows on its own.

Unfortunately, without some form of guidance from a mentor, minister, therapist or close friend, often what grows are bad habits and distance.
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Americans Get the Gold Medal for Anxiety

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” -Henry David Thoreau

NEWSFLASH!: The United States gets the gold! We have become the nation with the highest level of anxiety in the world. According to a recent study by the World Health Organization, 31 percent of Americans are likely to suffer from an anxiety problem at some point during their lifetime. The silver medal goes to Columbia with a lifetime risk of 25.3 percent, and the bronze to New Zealand with 24.6 percent. "The United States has transformed into the planet's undisputed worry champion," writes Taylor Clark, author of "Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool."

Articles have been written by psychologists, politicians, pundits and other bloggers trying to explain the reasons for this downside of American mental health. I'm more interested in what we can do about it. We will undoubtedly need to tackle this problem from many different angles. This is only one.

Since prior generations of Americans did not reportedly suffer from such epic levels of fear and worry, is there something to be learned from our familial history? If you are one of the worried masses, could it be time to simplify your life?
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How To Enhance Your Kids’ (And Your Own) Motivation: Part 1

To be motivated means to be moved to do something. Who among us has not wondered or worried about how to motivate ourselves, our spouse or our kids to get things done, whether it be homework, exercise, or just doing the dishes? The good news is that this area of inquiry is so important that it has been and continues to be a hot topic for research.

One of the key distinctions when examining motivation--or lack thereof--is the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. When we are intrinsically motivated, we do something because it is interesting and enjoyable. When extrinsically motivated, we do something either for some type of reward or to avoid an external punishment--the proverbial carrot or stick.

Life is full of all kinds of activities, some fun and some boring. Most of us do not have to be prodded or praised to do something we inherently love. We just need to figure out how to get ourselves to complete tasks that are unappealing but necessary.
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Top 10 Tools for Surviving Family Vacations

Now that school’s out, everyone wants to play and go on vacation. Having a flashlight and flares for a car trip is a great idea. So is a travel bag of games and CDs.
But what about a repair kit for family feelings? Or a road map to harmony? Even a dream vacation in an idyllic setting can become a nightmare if the kids are at each other’s throats.

Here are some practical parenting tools to help bring out the best in everybody:
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Gay Marriage: How to Handle the New Hot Potato

In a country deeply divided into red states and blue states, President Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage will no doubt become a political hot potato. In the meantime, the psychological and emotional impact of politics on the actual lives of families will get drowned out in the rhetoric of opposing sides.

As psychotherapists working with couples and families from diverse backgrounds, we know first hand how differences about things like religion, politics, values and behaviors can either damage or strengthen relationships. Which way it goes depends on several crucial variables.

First, can family members listen with an open mind to the experiences of loved ones even when they can’t agree? Second, can they develop empathy for the pain of another? Third, are the individuals open to new information and education?
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Joy=Love–Fear and Other Emotional Equations for Happiness

"Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms is to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."– Dr. Viktor Frankl
There are a lot of excellent self-help books out there these days. So many, in fact, that it is often difficult to figure out which one or another might be helpful to suggest when someone you love is suffering. I recently came across an unusual book, written not by a psychotherapist or neuroscientist, but by an MBA from Stanford who founded the second largest boutique hotel company in America.

This book will appeal to twenty and thirty-something dot-commers, men who like the short version, engineer-types of any age and gender, and all the other anti-touchy-feely folks you know who need some help wading through painful emotions (even if they don't think so).

The story behind this book is compelling. Chip Conley was a powerful CEO in Silicon Valley who appeared to have it all. Then the bubble burst in the economy and Conley lost five colleagues and friends to suicide in a few short years. In 2008, without warning and for no apparent medical reason, his heart stopped. This got his attention in a big way, and he began to seek out answers about how to alleviate his suffering from the field of psychology.
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