Are you the type of parent you thought you would be? Has your family turned out like you dreamed? If not, let Ron Huxley and the resources of the Parenting Toolbox help you heal and restore that dream family today.
By David Lewis , Ph.D. on December 27, 2013 - 3:50am
Billy, an impulsive 11-year-old, is viewed by his teachers as somewhat lazy, easily distracted and lacking in motivation.
His parents, convinced their son’s poor performance was due to a ‘mental’ problem, insisted he be as tested by the school’s psychologist. When she reported Billy was a perfectly normal little boy they refused to accept her diagnosis. They went to three further psychologists all of whom confirmed their colleague’s original findings. Still dissatisfied they sent him to a yet another specialist who finally provided the diagnosis they sought. Billy, he said, was suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). Given the appropriate medication their son could well turn into a straight A student.
“We always knew it,” they told his teachers triumphantly. “Our son is not lazy - he’s sick.”
They are far from unusual in this desire to explain away behaviour which, even a decade ago, might have been viewed as a normal part of growing up as a medical condition for which a cure must be found.
In the US, ADHD is now the second most frequent long-term diagnosis made in children, beaten only narrowly by asthma. Data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicate it has been diagnosed in up to 15% of high school-age children and that the number of youngsters being medicated for the disorder has risen from 600,000 in 1990 to 3.5 million today. By contrast, world-wide, ADHD affects only around 5% of children, the majority boys. (1)
It is, of course, essential that children with a genuine illness are speedily diagnosed and effectively treated. Medication, in such cases, is often an essential first step on the road to recovery.
The trouble is that between obviously healthy and manifestly sick youngsters there is a grey area which is growing in size with every passing year. Since, in the absence of pathology, there are at present no tests or scans that can detect mental illness, diagnosis tends to be subjective. What one psychologist considers perfectly ‘normal’, another may view as highly abnormal.
In a recent interview with the New York Times Dr Keith Conners, a psychologist and professor emeritus at Duke University, who for more than 50 years has led the fight to legitimise the disorder, called this increase:
“A national disaster of dangerous proportions…a concoction to justify the giving out of medication at unprecedented and unjustifiable levels.” (3)
The most widely used form of treatment is to use drugs, such as methylphenidate atomoxetine, and dexamfetamine. Unfortunately, around one in five ADHD sufferers fail to respond to drugs (4) while in many other cases the response is only partial. Furthermore, all drugs have side effects, can also be habit forming and open to abuse. Long-term follow-ups have found that when children stopped taking the drug their clinical symptoms of ADHD reappeared.
Problems such as these have led some therapists, especially in the US, to start using a form of treatment known as EEG-Neurofeedback training.
This involves teaching sufferers how to control their ‘brain waves’ by playing computer games via sensors attached to their head. (5) The results appear promising, with improvements being found in around 40 percent of cases at six month follow-up.
In a recent study in my laboratory* two teenage boys played a computer game involving a race between a red and a blue caterpillar. Thin wires ran from electrodes pasted to their scalps to a control box. This detects electrical activity in their brains and uses these ‘brain waves’ to move the caterpillars across the screen.
Mark, aged 13 has been diagnosed with ADHD his friend, 14-year-old Ryan exhibits no such symptoms. During the game, Ryan’s red caterpillar speeds quickly along the track as he reduces his output of slow moving ‘theta waves’ while simultaneously increasing faster moving ‘beta waves’. Mark’s brains produces higher levels of theta and lower levels of beta waves his blue caterpillar barely moves off the start line.
Over a period of time, however, Mark trains himself to reduce his theta and boost his beta waves. In doing so he learns to control his impulsive behaviours.
While researching for my new book, Impulse, I came across several examples of behaviour which our forefathers would have shrugged off but which present-day parents see as requiring medical intervention. Given the lifestyle of many youngsters these days this may not be so surprising.
Many youngsters are discouraged from engaging in activities, such as exploring, getting into and out of scrapes, climbing trees and falling over, that earlier generations accepted as a normal part of childhood down. Even the amount of time they have for exercise is so constrained these days, especially for urban children, by parental concerns for their safety. Some children may be exhibiting the symptoms of hyperactivity simply because they’re not getting enough physically demanding exercise!
Taking risks and learning from the consequences of their mistakes is an essential part of growing up and developing independence.
The teenage years, especially, are the most intense and exciting of a child’s life. They’ll be unhappy, do silly things, take reckless decisions and make foolish misjudgements of people and situations.
But if they behave impulsively and fall flat on their faces from time to time, this doesn’t mean they need a diagnosis or a pill. It just means they’re being kids.
* Mindlab International is purely a research laboratory and does not offer any neurofeedback training. There are, however, many practitioners in both the USA and UK
(1) Polanczyk, G., de Lima, M. S., Horta, B. L., Biederman, J., Rohde L. A., (2007) The Worldwide Prevalence of ADHD: A Systematic Review and Metaregression Analysis. American Journal of Psychiatry, 164(6), 942–948.
(2) Faraone, S. V., Biederman, J., Mick, E., (2006) The Age-Dependent Decline of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Meta-Analysis of Follow-Up Studies. Psychological Medicine, 36(2), 159–165.
(3) Schwarz, A. (2013) The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder, New York Times, Dec 14
(4) Charach, A., Figueroa, M., Chen, S., Ickowicz, A., & Schachar, R. (2006) Stimulant treatment over 5 years: effects on growth. Journal of American Academic Child Adolescent Psychiatry, 45: 415–421.
(5) Lansbergen, M. M., van-Dongen-Boomsma, M., Buitelaar, J. K., Slaats-Willemse, D., (2010) ADHD and EEG-Neurofeedback: A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo-Controlled Feasibility Study. Journal of Neural Transmission, 118(2), 275-284
Are you concerned about whether your pre-teen will need much supervision? As surprising at it may sound, most pre-teens and early adolescents behave in a responsible manner. They want to show you that they have an understanding of the rules and the common knowledge of right and wrong. On the other hand, we all know that they can also act irresponsibly. And for that reason they do need constant supervision still.
When your children are away from the home they are most often supervised. Most of the day they are at school where they are obviously watched by teachers and staff. If there are camps or afternoon organizations that they belong too then there is always adult supervision as well. Then the times when they are not supervised and out with friends are when they are most prone to getting into trouble.
Whether it is from peer pressure or the current mental state of excitement, there are times when your pre-teen will forgot the rules on a spontaneous moment. For example, my teenage son was told specifically not to leave the house when we were not home. One night we left for only an hour and came back early to find he walked 2 blocks down the road to his friends house. In another instance, my daughter was caught making a huge mess in the basement with her other 12 year old friends, touching items that her Mother and I specifically told her not to touch.
As you can, although our young pre-teens are becoming more and more independent each day that goes by, they still need supervision. The degree of supervision needed will vary, but obviously a ten year old will need more supervision than a twelve year old. A fourteen year old will need less watching over than the twelve year old, etc.
Whatever your children’s age may be, you should always know what they are doing and where they are at. It is your duty to set the rules and make sure that your child understands the guidelines of wherever they are at and whatever they are doing. Regardless if you are at home, working, socializing, or vacationing, your responsibility remains the same.
For example, if your child is having any sort of party, even with just a few friends, then you should be home, no excuses. There will be times when your pre-teen will want to go to a party outside of the house to another friends house or elsewhere. It is your responsibility to call and make sure that there will be other adults supervising them. Do not be afraid to take a strong hold with this rule. It an help maintain good order and keep your kids from getting into unnecessary trouble.
10 Ways Family Journals can heal and restore your heart…
By Ron Huxley, LMFT
Journaling has long been a tool to achieving better emotional and mental health. The need to express oneself in a safe and controlled manner is a powerful means to improving self-esteem and personal relationships. Parents can use this tool to increase their effectiveness and satisfaction with family members. Here are ten ways that a journal will help parents:
1. Tell your family story. What better way to immortalize your life than to write about it in a journal? You can create a memoir of your life growing up, describe the many branches on your family tree, or just make a scrapbook of your life. Children can benefit by learning their family history and discover whom they are in relation to past generations. Parents will find clues to family dysfunction and strengths by exploring their familial history.
2. Share yourself with family members. Most people keep their journals private but choosing a sister or child to share a journal with can close the gap on distant relationships or bring close one’s even closer. Swap separate journals for family members to read, keep a family journal that is free for all to read and write, or create a journal to express thoughts, feelings, and dreams with a particular family member.
3. Organize yourself…emotionally and spiritually. Whenever I go to the store, I make a list. If I don’t I am sure to forget something. Probably a few “something’s”. Writing things down helps me recall what I need to buy. Journaling will help you remember the emotional and spiritual items you need in your life. Some of this items you may not have known you needed and others will be one’s that you know you need but haven’t had the courage to go out there and get it. Journaling is the first step in that spiritual grocery store shopping.
4. Track your emotions, moods, and experiences over time. Monday was a high-energy day. Tuesday, I felt depressed and lethargic. Wednesday, I started to climb out of it. Thursday, I felt better but had difficulty focusing. You get the picture, right? Journals will help you map the highs and lows of your week, month, or year so that you can plan your life accordingly. What mood ring can do that for you?
5. Unburden yourself and let go of old hurts. You’ve carried that old emotional baggage for how many years now? Isn’t it time to let it go and move forward feeling a little lighter on the emotional load. You can let go of the hurts and fears you inherited from childhood that have clung to you through adulthood and affected all of your important relationships. Release them into a journal and really live life to the fullest. Because you are anonymous, this is your opportunity to say it all and unburden yourself so that you can have freer, more productive relationships with your family instead of venting it all at them.
6. Clarify and achieve your dreams, goals, and aspirations. Any successful life planner, motivational speaker, or therapist will tell you that in order to achieve a goal or dream you must write it down. Journals are a great way to realizing that goal or dream. While the path of life and relationships seems confusing and chaotic, a look back, into your journal, will reveal some very clear patterns that will help you in your future journeying.
7. Share your wisdom (life experiences) with others. I may not be an expert on life but I have had my share of successes and failures. So have you. Together we can learn and grow more than either of us could have done alone. Use journals to write down your mistakes so your children do not make the same one’s or share a few tips about life that you wish your parents had shared with you. It’s not too late.
8. Glimpse the world through the eyes of another person. Journals allow you to see life from the perspective of another’s culture, geography, beliefs, age, and gender. Take a trip around the world or through time simply by reading a family journal. Ask family members to describe you or your childhood. You may be surprise by what you learn when others look at you and your life.
9. Challenge your beliefs and enrich your life. Master therapists tell us that in order to change your life you must change your thoughts or beliefs. Doing this on your own is difficult if not impossible. Journals are a great way to analyze those thoughts that get in the way of good mental health and better family relationships.
10. Realize you are not alone! Have you had a loved one pass away? Suffered a divorce or financial loss? Had a prodigal child leave home? Anyone who has suffered a loss or felt the weight of depression knows how lonely that can be. It feels like no one could possibly understand the pain you feel. Family Journals remind you know that you are never alone and that hope is just one entry away!
"Grieving boys, Grieving girls, Grieving in the home. Oh what terrible pain it is when you lose someone you love.”
(Loosely sung to the tune of Jingle Bells).
This song is not meant to be disrespectful. It is meant to demonstrate how disrespectful society can be to children who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Christmas, according to our stories, is supposed to be a magical time of the year. Children, who have lost someone they love to death or divorce, shouldn’t have the wintertime blues, should they? They should be dreaming of a white Christmas, not having their dreams shattered, right? The true story of Christmas is that many children are grieving the loss of loved ones during this season, causing Christmas morning to turn into Christmas mourning. Parents can help their children by giving them twelve gifts, for the twelve days of Christmas, to help them cope during this painful time:
Gift # 1: Educate yourself about grief. Parents can unwittingly pass on their anxieties and fears to their children. Even the best actors will give themselves away. Children are tuned into adult’s nonverbal signals. Trying to hide painful feelings or awkward emotions will only increase children’s anxieties. They will assume they are “bad” or “responsible” for the absence of the loved one. Instead of hiding your emotions, learn about the stages of grief by reading books on the subject, attending support groups for families of loss, or working with a qualified family therapist. The better you care for yourself, the better you can care for your child.
Gift # 2: Let children teach you about grief. Children respond to loss in different ways. No way is the right way. Let children teach you how they think, feel, and respond to the loss. Walk along side the child in his or her personal journey. Notice the path and scenery as well as the direction you are headed. If children are taking a destructive route (suicide or self-harm) steer them in a different direction. Don’t wait till you are stepping over the edge. Be on the look out early in the journey for upcoming dangers. Talk to qualified educators and therapists about the warning signs of suicide, chronic depression, unrealistic fears, and other self-destructive behaviors if you are concerned.
Gift # 3: Wrap your child in relationship. Just as you would wrap a Christmas present in beautiful wrapping, with string and ribbons, you can wrap your child in relationship. Healing comes in connection with healthy people. It doesn’t make up for the loss, but it does provide children with a safe environment to heal. This requires that parents spend quality time with children and permit free expression of thoughts and feelings about the loss. If a child doesn’t want to spend time with a parent or healthy adult, give him or her some space but remain available to them. Occasionally ask them how they are feeling about the loss and stay involved, physically and emotionally.
Gift # 4: Talk openly and honestly about the loss. Many cultures avoid the topic of grief. Because the person is gone, we want the painful feelings to be gone too. But this isn’t how grief works. Grief has its own time and space to do the work of healing in children’s lives. Children need to be able to talk openly and honestly about the loss. They may have questions that can’t be answered easily. Don’t avoid them. If you don’t know the answer to the question, be honest and say so. Never tell children silly stories or lies, by saying, “Grandpa went away on a trip.”
Gift # 5: Don’t wait for the big talk. Use little, everyday experiences to talk to children about loss. If you find a bird has died in your yard or the gold fish dies in the fish tank, use that time to talk about your child’s thoughts and feelings around their loss. When your child’s friends move away and go to another school, talk about how that feels in relation to mom and dad’s divorce. Treat loss as a “serious curiosity.” Children are naturally curious and talking about your thoughts, feelings, and ideas about loss can be an equally natural experience.
Gift # 6: Respect children’s responses, however negative they may be. Some of children’s responses to loss might be unpleasant (grumpy, rude, oppositional), unattractive (poor hygiene, messy room, poor grades) or even frightening (inconsolable crying, insomnia, and refusal to eat). Take the necessary steps to respond to their responses. Don’t judge them or shame them. Respect their responses as one of many ways to cope with a difficult, overwhelming situation. Of course, not all responses are constructive. Stop destructive ones, but do it in a sensitive manner. In addition, children should not be allowed to set their own limits by avoiding responsibilities and rules. Continue to set limits while being flexible and understanding.
Gift # 7: Expect and understand that your child may have bodily reactions to loss. When children’s hearts hurt, so do their bodies. They may experience some somatic problems, such as, stomach aches or headaches. This can be perfectly normal and if not due to a physical problem, will go away with time and support. Always check these bodily reactions out with a physician to be sure. If conditions persist, and have not physical cause, consult with a child or family therapist.
Gift # 8: If someone has died, allow the child to attend the funeral. Although children are young they need to participate in a ceremony designed to say goodbye to a loved one and find some emotional closure. Although you should never force a child to go to a funeral, don’t exclude them either. Let them set the pace for each part of the ceremony. At each step of the way, ask them if they wish to participate. They may be comfortable attending a service but not viewing an open casket. Respect their wishes. Have someone who can take them home or wait outside with them if you wish to continue and they do not.
Gift # 9: If the lose does not involve a death or a funeral, create a ceremony to perform with the child. Rituals, traditions, and ceremonies are important physical markers of our emotional territory. They create a solid boundary for starting and stopping an activity or relationship. In the case of a divorce, no ceremony exists for a child to gain closure. Make a special dinner and eat it in memory of the person who has left. Find rituals to mark the goings and coming of children from mom’s house to dad’s house. During the Christmas holiday, find special ways to celebrate that are uniquely different from the past, such as, caroling, doing volunteer work, baking breads, hanging a special ornament, reciting the advent message, etc.
Gift # 10: Give children permission to feel relief without it being interpreted as a lack of love. In some circumstances the loss of a loved one may bring relief. For example, a family member may have suffered from a chronic illness that produced great physically pain for the victim as well as emotional pain for the family. A divorce may result in the reduction of abuse (verbal, emotional, or physical) that occurred in the home prior to one parent leaving. Children may interpret this relief as a lack of love for the loved one. Explain the differences and give them permission to feel relief that the pain has stopped, not their love.
Gift # 11: Focus on the spiritual. Use times of loss as motivations to learn more about your religious beliefs and culture. Great comfort can be found in this neglected aspect of us. Turn to your religious and cultural leaders for support. Read age appropriate materials, with your child, on religious and cultural thoughts. Attend religious and cultural functions. Don’t worry that you won’t have all the spiritual answers to loss. That really isn’t the point. Although you will find some answers, the greatest benefit is recapturing or nurturing your spiritual self.
Gift # 12: Prepare for hard work. Grieving is complicated. Fortunately, it is also natural. If you trust the process, the work will not be as hard as if you resist it. If you or your child have not been comfortable expressing your feelings, in the past, grieving may be harder. But it will not be impossible. In fact, grieving is inevitable. Let it do its work in you, to heal you and your child, so that you and your child can do the work of grieving. And in so doing, have a merrier Christmas!
When kids want something, they’ll ask..and ask…and ask until you cave in. You can teach them to unlearn this annoying negotiation tactic by saying just three words: “Asked and Answered.”
The technique comes from parenting book author Lynn Lott and shared on the Positive Parenting Solutions blog, which writes:
The concept is simple. When seven-year-old Daniel begs to dig a giant hole in the front yard and gets “no” for an answer, chances are he’ll be back in five minutes asking again – this time with a “pleeeeeeaase” just so you know he really, really wants to dig the hole.
Instead of repeating yourself or jumping in to a lecture, avoid child nagging by getting eye to eye and follow the process below:
Step One: Ask, “Have you ever heard of ‘Asked and Answered’?” (He’ll probably say no.)
Step Two: Ask, “Did you ask me a question about digging a hole?” (He’ll say yes.)
Step Three: Ask, “Did I answer it?” (He’ll probably say, “Yes, but, I really ….”)
Step Four: Ask, “Do I look like the kind of mom/dad/teacher who will change her/his mind if you ask me the same thing over and over?” (Chances are Daniel will walk away, maybe with a frustrated grunt, and engage in something else.)
Step Five: If Daniel asks again, simply say, “Asked and Answered.” (No other words are necessary!) Once this technique has been established, these are the only words you should need to say to address nagging questions.
Both parents are going to have to be consistent in using “Asked and Answered” for it to sink in (especially for kids who are exhaustingly persistent in their badgering). Once it does though, hopefully this technique will help you stop sounding like a broken record.
In researching for my book, I have talked to a lot of divorced parents to find out where the majority of the conflict in co-parenting arises. It seems the number one topic that is brought up is communication. Not just communication between the parents, but communication with the kids when they are with the other parent. It can be very upsetting for a parent when he/she has to go seven days without seeing his/her kids and the other parent doesn’t allow the noncustodial parent to talk to the children.
Due to the controversial nature of calling/texting the kids, it is often put in as a provision in the custody agreement. During mediation, the parents may agree on what they think is appropriate for calling and texting. While the custody agreement is in place so there is a baseline to work from, the goal is to work toward open communication between all parties.
I have discussed this with most of my divorced friends and everyone seems to think that talking to the kids once a day when they are with the other parent is pretty appropriate. However, there are some parents who choose not to allow that. They won’t have the kids return calls, won’t play messages for the kids and may even seek legal action to keep the other parent from contacting the kids.
While the parent prohibiting the contact is protecting his/her privacy, he/she is also causing anxiety for the children. Rather than knowing the other parent can’t contact them, the children go to bed each night thinking the other parent doesn’t care or has better things to do.
You can’t explain to a 10-year-old child that you can’t call them because mommy went to court to prohibit it. You can’t tell your teenage son that you aren’t allowed to text him about basketball tryouts or his big science test because his father had it put in the court order. While your anger may make you want to tell them, you know it is not in their best interests to possess that information.
My ex has always called at least twice a day for over nine years now. Although most would say that is excessive, it doesn’t bother me because I don’t have to speak to him anyway. With caller ID, I can see it is him and hand the phone to one of the kids. They enjoy their daily talks with him and when I have asked them about it they have said that it makes them feel good that dad wants to be a part of their lives even when they are not with him. If it makes them feel good, then why in the world would I fight it?
Some people may think over twice a day is excessive, but as far as I am concerned, he is their father and when we were married he got to talk to them even more than that. Why take that from either of them? I don’t even know how often he texts them because HE IS THEIR FATHER. If he wants to text them, then he can. And if I want to text them when they are with him, then I will. No matter who they are with, we are both still their parents.
Because of this open attitude we have about phone calls/texting, I can’t even begin to understand people who attempt to limit contact with the other parent without there being an abuse issue or an addiction problem. While there may be separate lives with the parents, there is only one life for the children. Just because they are with one parent and not the other does not mean that their other parent doesn’t exist for them during that time.
Following a divorce, children have many needs that only their parents can meet. It has been proven that kids need their parents to remain involved. If their parents do not remain involved, the kids will question their love. Good communication with your ex regarding the kids should be of the highest priority, but even more important is keeping the right mindset so that you can encourage the relationship between your kids and the other parent. Your children more than ever need you to put them first. Divorce is a time when parents inadvertently make a lot of parenting mistakes, so don’t purposely cause them more problems by sabotaging their relationship with the other parent. Read more from Valerie DeLoach at her blog, Life in a Blender.
You may have heard of “play therapy” for children but have your ever heard of TheraPlay? This pioneering approach to attachment-based, family therapy is one that I have been practicing for many years and still find it one of the most practical approaches to working with families, particularly children who have endured trauma.
“Theraplay is a child and family therapy for building and enhancing attachment, self-esteem, trust in others, and joyful engagement. It is based on the natural patterns of playful, healthy interaction between parent and child and is personal, physical, and fun. Theraplay interactions focus on four essential qualities found in parent-child relationships: Structure, Engagement, Nurture, and Challenge. Theraplay sessions create an active, emotional connection between the child and parent or caregiver, resulting in a changed view of the self as worthy and lovable and of relationships as positive and rewarding.
In treatment, the Theraplay therapist guides the parent and child through playful, fun games, developmentally challenging activities, and tender, nurturing activities. The very act of engaging each other in this way helps the parent regulate the child’s behavior and communicate love, joy, and safety to the child. It helps the child feel secure, cared for, connected and worthy.
We call this “building relationships from the inside out.””
Help support National Adoption Day on Nov. 23. This national effort to raise awareness of the more than 100,000 children in foster care waiting to find permanent, loving families is an annual, one-day event celebrated the Saturday before every Thanksgiving. It honors families who adopt, encourages others to adopt children from foster care and builds collaboration among local adoption agencies, courts and advocacy organizations. Find out more at http://www.nationaladoptionday.org