Self-help Articles

Sadness or Depression? Recognizing Mental Illness in Tweens and Teens

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

shutterstock_122642200

Kids carry around a ton of emotion.

As infants, they communicate with cries, screams, and eventually smiles and laughter.

Toddlers grow and begin to use spoken language in addition to laughter, hugs, biting, hitting, and crying.

The childhood years are generally calm. A second grader has not yet entered the emotional turmoil of the teen or preteen years, and has increased social skills that they didn’t have as a toddler or even as a preschool child.

Once a boy or girl hits the preteen years, the hormonal changes that will eventually take them into adulthood begin.

If you’ve ever talked with a group of parents about their own adolescent years, you’ll hear words like “chaotic” and “angry,” “depressed,” “anxious”.

Teens and tweens are full of incredibly strong and complex emotions. Their moods change and shift. They can be explosive and angry one minute, and the next minute write you a sweet note about how much they love you.

As a parent, grandparent, teacher or friend, how can you differentiate between the mood swings of an emotionally healthy adolescent and a teen who may be struggling with a more serious mental illness such as depression?

Even with adults it can be difficult to tell the difference between feeling blue and having depression. With teens it’s harder.

As a parent, you know your child best. If something feels off with your child, talk with them further or seek professional help. If you’re a caring adult in a teen’s life and notice something that is concerning, don’t hesitate to reach out to the teen or their parents.

One thing I hear time and time again from adults who were depressed as teens is that they wish their parents had understood and gotten them help. Don’t be afraid to reach out and seek help if you see some of these signs.

  • Engaging in self-injury. Any type of self-harm is cause for concern. Some teens cut or burn, others will pierce or scratch themselves. While it may or …

Do You Have a Challenging Toddler? 8 Simple, Proven Solutions

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

shutterstock_151353104Ah, toddler-hood: the years when a child’s mind is growing faster than their speech, where they have big feelings but little control. Parenting a toddler is challenging to say the least.

My daughter is seven now, but I clearly remember those days of leaving the grocery cart full and walking out of the store with a flailing, screaming 2 year old. Nearly anything can set a toddler off: a cat in her special seat, running out of Cheerios, or even the one-cent pony ride being out of service.

This is not to say that parenting a toddler is all pain and no joy. There were lots of wonderful moments as I watched my daughter learn language, when I saw the world through her new eyes and experienced her wonder.

But the crazy times? Yes. There were plenty of those.

Part of parenting is finding simple ways of making it through tantrums and screaming matches.

As a therapist, a mom, and a blogger, here are some tried and true suggestions for when your little one is out of control, and you feel like you’re going crazy.

  1. Give your kiddo a time-in, instead of a timeout. A time-in is where you invite your child to sit down next to you or near you or on your lap. You invite her to talk about her feelings and connect until the behavior storm passes. There’s a great article that explains the difference between time in and time out here. 
  2. Be silly together. Toddlers can get so into their cranky moods that they cannot pull themselves out of it. As a mom or dad, being silly or goofy can break that mood. I used to perform very poorly done magic tricks. Toddlers aren’t picky.
  3. Give yourself some space, if possible. With a toddler, it can be hard to find a moment of peace, but sometimes when you notice yourself getting angry or about to yell or hit, …

Animal Assisted Therapy

Saturday, August 9th, 2014

Eini, therapy bird at New Wings Counseling

Animal assisted therapy (AAT) has become the new buzzword in the field of mental health.

While animal assisted therapy was previously seen as an alternative treatment, it has become more main stream, and it’s now common to find animals in the therapy office, retirement community, and hospital.

All animals can provide love and friendship to those around them, but therapy animals are specially trained to be comfortable around people with disabilities, to not bite when startled, and to accept petting from people of all ages and conditions.

What is animal assisted therapy?

According to the Mayo Clinic,  “pet therapy is a broad term that includes animal-assisted therapy and other animal-assisted activities. Animal-assisted therapy is a growing field that uses dogs or other animals to help people recover from or better cope with health problems, such as heart disease, cancer, and mental health disorders.”

Animal assisted therapy has been studied and proven to work with children who have experienced abuse or neglect and for people recovering from cancer and other diseases. It’s been shown to be effective with veterans and their families. Nursing homes, libraries, schools, and even prisons have had success with bringing trained animals in to help ease tension, provide support, and comfort. Animals are able to reach people in ways that nothing else can. 

What makes animal assisted therapy work?

  1. Animals offer unconditional love. When someone struggles with depression, anxiety, grief, or loneliness, the world can seem a barren and hostile place. Animals can show a kindness and acceptance that bring healing. The simple act of petting a cat or dog lowers blood pressure and reduces tension.
  2. Animals can connect with people who have a difficult time connecting with people. This is particularly true for people with autism.  A wonderful resource is ASDA, Autism Service Dogs of America. It is not only individuals with autism who benefit from animal assisted therapy. As a therapist, I use …

The Fat Shaming Epidemic

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

shutterstock_182583443-2

I’ve been thinking a lot about body shaming and fat shaming.

It’s all over the media lately. And although kids being teased for their weight is nothing new, the power of the internet takes it to an entirely new level.

Carleigh O’Connell, a 14 year old girl from New Jersey, became a viral sensation and anti-fat shaming advocate when she posted a photograph of herself in a swimsuit in response to a graffiti message spray painted in her home town. Carleigh was recently a guest blogger on the site called Mighty Girl. She states:

What I now know…

I have realized that so many people, kids and adults, have faced and can relate to this type of negativity.

I have realicarleighzed that sometimes you have to stare cruelty in the face and not drop your head.

I have realized that owning who you are and how you are made is much better than feeling ashamed or bad about yourself.

I have realized that is okay to not have everyone agree with you and your actions, because sometimes negativity can bring bigger and better things.

What happened to Carleigh is awful. No one should have to feel objectified like that. But Carleigh took the bullying and turned it around. She refused to be shamed. Because of her courage she has become a role model and hero to many.

There are many websites that exist for the sole purpose of fat shaming; websites that post pictures of overweight people and make degrading and cruel remarks about them. Sadly, some bloggers and writers believe that fat shaming helps people lose weight.

Fat shaming does absolutely no good and causes significant harm. If you’re a person who has experienced fat shaming, you know that being made fun of or mocked for your weight does not help you loose any pounds.

Despite what proponents of fat shaming want to believe, when people are humiliated due to their size,  they gain even more weight.

Being overweight means that according to the medical establishment, you are carrying more weight …


8 Easy Ways to Reconnect with Your Teen

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

shutterstock_17169079

The teen years are a developmental time when children begin to distance themselves from their parents and families.

This is necessary and healthy.

But sometimes the emotional distance can become too extreme and you will feel the need to reconnect.

Your job as a parent parent is not an easy one: to allow your child to grow an independent sense of self, yet remain close enough to provide support and guidance when needed.

As your teen grows in maturity and independence, keep 8 these ideas in mind to help you reconnect when the distance grows too great.

  1. Encourage appropriate independence. Teens are searching to find their own identity. This may mean making choices that you find strange or shocking, or it can mean changing rules to fit their growing autonomy. It’s importance to balance independence with behavioral expectations to keep your teen safe. A teenager’s frontal cortex, the part of the brain that helps them make decisions and allows for impulse control, is not fully formed until the age of 25, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, so try and help them when they are making dangerous choices, but allow them freedom when it’s appropriate.
  2. Recognize when your teen needs you to be closer. The teenage years can feel like an emotional roller coaster. Some days your child wants nothing to do with you, other days they talk your ear off and you feel like you can’t get a moment’s peace. When they are seeking connection, do your best to provide it, and if they withdraw again, realize that this is all part of the process of growing up.
  3. Lay off the lectures. Sometimes the fewer words that are spoken, the better. At this age, consequences speak volumes. If your teen knows she broke curfew and knows the consequences that are in place, she doesn’t need a lecture. If the problem is serious and needs to be addressed with a conversation, it helps if everyone involved is calm. Allow your teen to be part of the discussion. Even if you as the parent have the final word, teens need to feel like they are heard.
  4. Be positive,

Can an App Save Your Marriage?

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

shutterstock_194888822

There are apps for everything these days.

There is an app that makes fake working noises so you can secretly nap.

There’s an app to translate your baby’s cries.

One app wants you to pay $.99 to have a staring contest with a poorly drawn cartoon monkey.

Apps can help you run a marathon, stick to a diet, learn tai chi.

But can an app help or even save your marriage?


When a Pet Dies: Helping Your Young Child Grieve

Monday, June 30th, 2014

shutterstock_163991363

When your child’s pet dies, it can be a stressful and confusing time. He or she may not behave in a way that seems normal or natural, or their sadness may seem to linger for an extended period of time.

For many kids, the death of a beloved pet can bring nights of sobbing and tearful questions.

Even if the pet seems insignificant to adults, like a goldfish won at a fair, a child may feel as if their world is falling apart and mourn deeply.

On the other hand, some children appear nonchalant and unfazed about the death of a pet cat or dog. They may talk about the death in a matter of fact way and become focused on getting a new animal.

Parents may be struck by their child’s lack of intense feelings and worry that he or she isn’t crying or appearing to mourn. This can be especially true if the parents feel the animal’s loss deeply and are grieving.

Just like adults, no one child grieves in the same way as another. So whether your child reacts with nights of sobbing, pictures drawn, and an  elaborate funeral complete with a decorated box and flowers, or if he or she shows very little outward sorrow, your role as a parent is to help your child through their loss at their pace and in their unique way.

Here are some suggestions to help your child when they are grieving the loss  of a pet.


Free Yourself Free From Anger, Hurt and Resentment

Friday, April 11th, 2014

There’s an old parable large__12801641634about how to catch a monkey.

The story goes that if you want to catch a monkey, you put a hole in a coconut, and inside the hole you put some nuts or fruit. You tie the coconut to a tree and wait.

A hungry monkey will put his hand down the hole and grab the fruit or nuts in his fist. When he attempts to take his fist out of the hole, he finds that his fist is too big.

The legend states that the monkey becomes trapped, not because of the coconut, but because of his unwillingness to let go.

The metaphorical coconut trap is something that everyone deals with.

Do you hold on to times people have hurt you in the past? Are your feelings still hurt from painful words that were said to you? Or do you continue to agonize over times when you have messed up? Is letting go of your own mistakes difficult?

There are two people in a row boat, each one with an oar. One person feels hurt or angry, and they stop a rowing, while their partner keeps at it.

The boat moves in a circle, going nowhere.

The anger, frustration, and pain people experience keeps them from working together to move forward.

These tightly kept feelings don’t do any good. They don’t change the past, and when acted upon they do not change anyone else.

They merely keep you stuck.

Another trap that keeps people from feeling free is regret over what they did or didn’t do in life.

It’s like a cage, where they feel like they’re interacting with the world, but they’re being held back. It may feel safe to hide under anger or resentment. But the reality is that this cage keeps a person from  participating in and enjoying life.

Most people don’t even realize what it is that’s keeping them from moving forward.

They may blame their unhappiness on their bad luck or how other people treated them. Or perhaps they may understand their own role in the situation. They understand by holding on to their anger and hurt is like poison. …


Talking With Children About Death

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

shutterstock_167842937A close friend of your child dies unexpectedly in a horrific car crash. An aunt loses her battle with cancer. The beloved cat has to be put to sleep. A parent is diagnosed with a terminal disease.

All these are examples of ways children can encounter death for the first time.

A child’s first experience of death often comes when a pet dies. For many children, losing a beloved animal can be the most intense sadness they have felt. It’s important for parents to take a child’s feelings on this seriously, and allow them to grieve how they need to.

Depending on your child’s age, experts suggest different ways of talking about death with your child.

For the very youngest of children, from infancy up to around three years old, kids cannot understand what it means to die, but they still feel the loss. For this age, focus on providing safety and comfort and love. Use simple terms to explain the death.

Preschool children may act out their emotions. Some kids become withdrawn. Others act out and become angry or destructive, or have mood swings. Children might have stomach aches or not feel good. Again, provide support and love. Encourage your child to talk about their feelings if they are able to. At this age, children may begin to draw about their emotions.

School age children have a better understanding of death. You want to be as honest as you can. If you have a belief in the afterlife, your child may find it comforting to think that their friend who died is in heaven. If the idea of life after death is not something you believe in, it’s fine to say that we just don’t know what happens after we die or that we simply don’t exist anymore. Help them find comfort in remembering their friend or loved one. Some kids find it helpful to plant a flower or tree as a reminder of the person who died.

Teenagers may react in both childish ways and adult ways. If your teen processes things verbally, he or she may need to discuss the …


Transform Your Inner Critic

Friday, March 28th, 2014

shutterstock_133427858Your inner critic.

Everyone has one.

Most people want to shut up, destroy, annihilate, or otherwise quiet that voice in their head that says things like, that was a stupid thing to say, or you look so fat today, you’re dumb, you’ll never get anywhere in life. I’m sure you can add your own.

Your inner critic is the voice that monitors your every act, word, and thought.

When it’s out of control, your inner critic can rule your life and ruin your self esteem. It can fill your mind with fears and worse case scenarios.

But what would happen if instead of trying to shut your inner critic up, you would listen to it? I don’t mean listen as in taking its words as true. I mean listen as hear what it’s saying, think about it, and then make your own decision whether or not to believe it.

What would it be like if you viewed your inner critic not in the sense of negative critical messages that should be dismissed, but as a cautious voice that can be helpful if its understood?

How it works is this; your inner critic makes a remark like, “You’re going to mess up this presentation.” So instead of just dwelling on the negative thinking and giving it power, you spend a couple of minutes critically thinking about it. How would I mess up the performance? Is that something that could realistically happen? If so, what can I do to fix it?

You can view your inner critic as  a negative force weighing down on you, or it can be a tool that you use to discern your strengths and weaknesses.

There are two crucial points here.

The first is that your inner critic is neither good nor bad. It points out your insecurities, strengths, and weaknesses. It’s kind of like a coach. Sometimes it can have valid points, and sometimes it makes mountains out of mole hills.

The second is that the more thought and attention you give to a particular idea or internal message, the more power you imbue it with. Dwelling or ruminating on fears is draining …


 

Subscribe to this Blog: Feed

Recent Comments
  • Glori: I with your logic on this! One thought I wanted to share is that I believe an apology is also for the person...
  • Pamster: jenny, I understand as much as I can. Everyone’s losses are different. I lost my whole nuclear family....
  • jenny: I was married for 30+ years…..he died. I remarried and he died. Twice widowed in 6 years. Had a...
  • Corrina: First of all, I don’t think it’s right to take the choice of suicide from people. We euthanize...
  • Maureen: I agree completely with the points in the article. My daughter (now 9) is growing up with me having many co...
Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code



Users Online: 12240
Join Us Now!