Floral Border

Social Media and Me

Everyone once in a while I remove Facebook from my phone. Not because of any privacy concerns, or for some major protest over over-sharing and globalization, but because my kids accuse me of looking down too much. So I remove it, and find myself scrolling through my phone purposefully but fruitlessly.  I get off social media for a while, and then find myself going back on for work, or to search out information. Inevitably, I find myself scrolling through old posts and the more I scroll, the worse I feel. Every post, every flip of my finger, I feel worse and worse. Watching all the smiling faces, all the parties, all the happy children and parents. Sometimes I feel like it’s me drowning, watching everyone else party on the inside, and my imperfect life, family, children, social life pale in comparison. The more I scrolled, the worse I felt. Until I finally stopped. And walked away from the social media platform. Because it was making me feel bad. The medium isn’t bad, it’s just how I feel when I’m on it. And I am learning to walk away from things that make me feel bad. I know that what’s presented on social media is filtered: everybody posts what they want others to see; the life they want to present to the world. It’s not real. And that’s ok. But I don’t have to engage in things that make me feel bad. I think I need to learn how to moderate. Look a little, notice myself and my feelings, and leave when I start feeling down. Or when my inner voice starts making me feel bad. Because social media isn’t gong anywhere. And my behavior teaches my kids how to use social media responsibly. Not just when to look at it, but when to notice it affects my feeling and my behavior, it’s time to take a break.

My Child Plays Sports

I woke up last night in the middle of a panic attack. It’s not the first time, either. Heart pounding, sweating, mind racing. I have two son who are competitive gymnasts.  We travel all over for meets. Both go to the same gym but compete at different levels. My younger son enjoys the comradery, but he’d much rather sing, ride his bike around the neighborhood, and hang out with his friends. For some kids, being part of a team is about learning to lose gracefully and putting effort and pride into everything they do. And that’s such an important lesson. My older son, however, lives and breathes gymnastics. This is what he wants to do. He has big dreams and plans, and works hours a day on achieving his goals. I’ve read a lot of blogs. They all say, “You are doing a good thing; you’re teaching them about perseverance and how to lose gracefully”. Occasionally, people will recognize the time, money, and energy parents put into their children’s sports. Sometimes this is to fulfill the parents’ desires for greatness through their kids. Sometimes it’s the athletes drive and motivation. My sons call me a “gymnastics mom”. They make fun of me when I remind them to point their toes or get out of their heads and into the back tuck.  Which brings me back to my panic attack.  Am I pushing too hard? Am I giving him my all so they can give theirs? Should I leave it alone? Most of all, am I the cause of their stress or lack of effort? How do I stop getting tense in the middle of the night, meet, or practice? As anyone who’s ever experienced a panic attack knows, they aren’t so easy to stop. And one leads into another into the next. In the moment it’s hard to remember to breath, unclench your jaw, or count backwards from 10,000. Sometimes a podcast helps as a distraction; meditation to remind me to get into my breath and get out of my thoughts.  It’s hardest to remember not to try too hard. Just to let it go. And that’s the best thing I can for my kids: to learn to chill, take it as it comes, accept what is and trust in myself as a parent, as a chauffeur, as a psychologist, and as a back-seat coach and cheering squad. It’s hard not to take their scores and effort, or lack thereof, personally; to equate my blood, sweat, and tears with how they perform, or don’t. And I guess that the point. My sons’ gymnastics (or any other) experiences aren’t in my control. The decisions I make for them, and the emotions and drive I try to instill are done in good faith, with love and knowledge. And that’s where it must end: faith in myself and faith in my kids. I can only do so much. And I have to be ok with that, and let the rest be.

Resilience

Last night was not my best parenting moment. After a long week, topped by an even longer weekend, we offered for friends to stay over with their children for dinner. The boys were torturing the girls, who were crying and running to us for support; water was spilled ALL over the table; and the dog was in the middle, chasing and being chased. My dearest daughter, who deserves an Oscar for tears-on-command, looked at me soulfully and asked for help cleaning up her spill. And I couldn’t. I wiped her tears and told her to get it done herself. I didn’t yell, I scream, or lose my cool. But I just couldn’t do it. Resilience is our ability to bounce back from what we perceive as adversity, as hits to our self-image and esteem. Some people believe we are born with this ability to bounce back; that it’s innate, and can’t be taught. Others believe that it can be taught: that there are skills that help build reliance. One of these skills is emotional regulation. We’ve found that among youth who report high reliance, believe they can adapt in stressful and risky situations. A significant predictor of resilience in adolescents is emotional regulation. Teaching emotional regulation, and bolstering that skills, can help prevent risky and irrational behaviors.  And can help us deal better with screaming crying children and flying pizza and puppies. We feel better when we are in control; we are able to think and respond, instead of react on a whim. Our resilience, and our emotional regulation helps keeps us in control. And when we are in control we are better parents. And our kids learn how to respond to stress. And their brothers and sisters.

Gratitude

Gratitude is a hot buzz word right now. Everywhere you go, you hear about being “in the moment” and being thankful for what you have. If you Google 'Gratitude', a million different definitions come up. I like the one from Psychology Today, which states  “Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has—as opposed to, for example, a consumer-driven emphasis on what one wants.” People who express gratitude, meaningfully and often, tend to experience more positive emotions, sleep better, are kinder, and have stronger immune systems. Gratitude does not just have to be shown after a big event, like a bar mitzvah or a promotion; it works best when integrated into our daily lives. Being thankful for every day, little things, helps us realized how blessed we are. When forming a habit, we’re told to practice at the same time every day, over a significant period of time. When we think about practicing gratitude, we are taught to notice new little things. If you say “I am thankful for my spouse and children”  all the time, you lose interest in gratitude. It just becomes a meaningless platitude. But if everyday we are able to find even one new things to be thankful for, we begin to look at our world differently. Studies have shown there are many different, healthy, and effective ways of displaying gratitude: you can write in a journal. Logging your thoughts for yourself helps keep you on track and reminds you of all the many things around you you are thankful for. You can also write a letter to those who have helped shape you into you. Letting people know how much they mean to you, what effect they have had on you, is immeasurable. You feel good saying something, and knowing that you are making someone happy. The other person is touched and honored, knowing that their comments, or actions, have made a difference, even to one person. Giving is another way to practice gratitude. Winston Churchill once said “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” When we give money, even a small amount, to someone else, we feel more pleasure than if we were to spend that amount on ourselves. When we donate, Oxytocin, the “feel good” hormone, is released in our brains, which helps to lower our stress and increases our sense of connection to others. This oxytocin boost will cause people to give more generously and feel a greater sense of empathy towards others. This in turns causes people to want to pay it forward, to keep the loop going. A recent survey noted that people who donated to charity in the past month reported a greater sense of satisfaction. In fact, across 136 countries, donating to a charity that you believe in and are thankful for had a similar impact on happiness levels as doubling your household income. A little Thank You goes a long way. Not just for you, but for all those you meet.

How to Deal with Those Who Hate

It seems that we can’t escape the news, no matter where we hide. Our social media pages, televisions, and conversations are peppered with messages of intolerance, and hate. Pictures flash through our screens of people screaming, swatsikas and flags proudly displayed, torches and angry faces. As adults we have difficulty processing these strong emotions; how to we help our children understand this world? It’s important, if we are asked, to be honest and open. We share information only to the extent that the child understands: Who are these people? Americans who are unhappy. Where is this occurring? Today, Virginia. What is happening? People are angry and upset about their vision of the country. Am I safe? Yes. What can I do? Love others. Know that what makes this country great is that we can have differing viewpoints, and in this country we don’t get in trouble for respectfully and calmly stating them. Violence is never ok. Inciting fear and bullying is never acceptable. But listening is. Loving others is. Knowing that talking with people is good, especially those who don’t agree with you. Really listening, and trying to understand other people leads to acceptance and tolerance. It’s important that we give our children and ourselves a sense of peace and stability; that we assure them that the helpers are still there: their parents, teachers, doctors, and those who help keep our communities safe. For ourselves, we should remember that strong emotions are best countered with a calm demeanor and tone. Listening with an open mind and heart, not to answer, but to understand, is key. That’s how we bridge divides; that’s how we change our world. We show our children that we don’t stand up to bullies with more pitchforks and torches, but with love and a willingness to hear. And when all else fails, we understand that what makes this country great is our freedoms: of speech, of thought, of peaceful assembly. And in the end, none of us HAVE to listen. We can leave: shut off our televisions, put down our phones, not engage in social media or disturbing dialogue.  Knowing how to turn the negativity off, how to find the helpers and self soothe, allows our children and ourselves to heal. Listening and loving helps our community, and our country, grow.

"Self-Care"

I think the buzz-phrase for a while has been “self-care”. Recently we have been bombarded with messages of how we need to take care of ourselves; how important it is to make sure we don’t burn out; how if we aren’t ok, we won’t be able to take care of anyone else. I think in the current climate, the notion of “self-care” is more important than ever. We are being bombarded with news and feelings from all sides: our friends, our family, the news. Even our recent diversions don’t allow us to escape: Facebook and Twitter are rife with political and emotional messages. We need to stop. We need to take care of ourselves. Burnout has never been so close as it is now. We need to take care of bodies and our minds, because if we aren’t ok, we can’t be effective friends, spouses, parents. Here are my suggestions: Disconnect from all social media. Listen to audiobooks in the car. Meditate, color, knit, run. When you find yourself becoming upset, drawn in to a thought or argument that will raise your hackles and blood pressure, walk away. Think about your breath coming in and out of your body. Remember you don’t have to pay attention to those pesky notions running through your mind. The world has changed. But our role in it has not. We need to be there for those who rely on us.  We are the helpers and the healers. But this time, more than ever, it’s important to take care of ourselves.  We are worthy people, too. Self-care is more than just a buzz-phrase today. It’s a lifestyle.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Parenting

When my son was diagnosed with ADHD, I thought, as a psychologist, I was prepared for the continuing challenges of parenting. But I was wrong. All my knowledge went out the window as I attempted to plead, cajole, beg, bribe, yell my way through parenting my son.  Those early childhood years of his life were increasingly tough. There were many moments I wished that there could have been a support group, a therapist, someone, who knew what I was going through. So that all of these increasingly difficult behaviors weren’t on mine and my husband’s shoulders alone. We were very lucky. We had friends and family, and a WONDERFUL therapist who helped us through it all. And even with all the support, we felt isolated from our parent-peers.  There are many parents out there who don’t have the support base we had. And it’s not just parents of children with ADHD that experience this burn out. One population of parents in particular has an exceptionally high rate of anxiety and depression. Parents and primary caregivers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have significantly high rates of depression and anxiety (50% and 40% respectively).  Despite this, very few seek treatment for themselves. We know that if treatment is received, we can decrease these rates of anxiety and depression, thereby increasing satisfaction and effective parenting techniques, and decreasing alienation and loneliness. A recent study by Lushin and O’Brien (2016) has found that using the Early Intervention Program to provide treatment to parents, either in a home-based or clinic-based setting (where their child receives services) helps reduce the symptoms and severity of the depression and anxiety related to parenting s child with ASD. Receiving treatment for their depression and anxiety helps them parent effectively, which in turn helps their children. The Early Intervention Program seems like a perfect vehicle to provide these services. And we know that the early the effective services are provided to the child (and that includes appropriate parenting), the better the child is in the long term. And the better we all are. Lushin, V., & O’Brien, K.H. (2016) Parental Mental Health: Addressing the unmet needs of caregivers for children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 55, 1013-1015. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2016.09.507

The Question of Strong Feelings

Considering the current political climate in our country, it’s important to talk to our children about how to be gracious winners and losers. Sometimes, we tell our children, we don’t always win. Sometimes, we remind them, we will. Both are ok. Both are part of life. But it’s important to remember that we live in a world with lots of other people who don’t feel the same way. Or who tried hard, and lost, or won. And it’s our place to come together afterwards and still live and get along. What many people might be feeling are strong emotions, adults included. Our children may not understand why we have these strong emotions; why we are feeling anxious or upset, or elated and confident. They may not know why the adults around them feel these strong emotions, or they might understand the concept of “winning” and “losing”. But they all feel our emotional cast offs. What most children don’t understand is how to process these strong emotions. Often regulating these feelings are hard; they get carried away and end up on an out of control emotional rollercoaster that leaves them feeling out of control. Here’s how to help:
  1. Accept their emotions. They, and you, have a right to feel the way they do. It’s ok to be happy, or sad, or confused. All our feelings are ok.
  2. It's how we express our emotions that count. We can have feelings, but our feelings can’t stop us from living our lives. We still must go to school, or work. We still must eat, and sleep, and do what is expected of us in our everyday lives. That’s what makes the world continue to turn.
  3. We can learn to handle our emotions. Learning to sit in our emotions, to accept what we are feeling without judgement but acceptance, is key. There are lots of meditation apps that you can download to help everyone practice focusing: on your breath, on a though, on a feeling. When you control your emotions, your emotions don’t control you.
Being in control of our emotions will help our children be in control of themselves. And as a person, a family, and a country, we can be more in command of ourselves, which will allow us to continue to live our best lives. This holds true for a soccer game, a test, and an election.

How to Talk to Children about Traumatic Events

I was at a function on 9-11, with parents and children all under the age of 13. In respect to the day, a 9-11 tribute was planned. One parent walked away, visibly upset. Understandably. We have lived through this day, and the following weeks: in real time, in our minds, in our waking and dreaming hours. But our children haven’t. They have only known a world where we don’t wear shoes on the security line in the airport, and metal detectors are common place. How do explain 9-11 to our children? At what age do we start? It’s important to be able to talk about scary events to our kids. Bad things happen. And we need to be able to speak to our children about them, in an understandable and relatable manner. If we can start speaking to our children when they are young, it will be easier for us (as parents) to talk to about, and for them (as growing minds) to process.
  1. Don’t shy away from the truth, but give it to a child in a developmentally appropriate way: Young children don’t need to know that planes struck two iconic buildings in Lower Manhattan. But they do need to know that something bad happened.
  2. Stick to the facts: It’s so easy to add commentary. Don’t. This is true in any tough situation. It muddies the waters and doesn’t help young children process what occurred. You can simply say, "Some people wanted to hurt America." If the child is older and prepared to hear more facts, give them slowly. Remember that what you say will inform how they react and think in the future.
  3. Try to give hope: Even when things are hopeless. Children look towards the adult in their life to guide them. Even when we don’t have answers ourselves. It’s important to remember what we are doing to keep people safe, and how those actions, in turn, are keeping our children safe. We might find the lines in the airport long and cumbersome, but they help ensure that everyone flying that day is safe and secure. Present the positive to the child.

Sometimes, in the moment, we don’t know what to say. If that’s the case, it’s ok to say “I don’t know. Let me get back to you.” Seek out a pediatric psychologist or other qualified mental health professional to sort through the information and help you come up with plan of what to say. When you have a plan, you’ll be calmer and be able to talk to your child in a clear manner.

Talking to kids about scary times is tough. But it’s important we build that foundation for children. Because our children deserve to know how to process both positive and negative events in their lives. And it’s our job as parents to guide them.

Major Depressive Disorder in Young Children

What happens when being sad doesn’t go away? Or, what does it mean when a young child is jumpy, unfocused, sad, and angry, more often than not? When young children are diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) often medication and/or therapy are prescribed. Many times, despite our best efforts, children with MDD often relapse. A new study looked at children prescribed fluoxetine (Prozac) as well as relapse prevention cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Interestingly, regardless of whether children received relapse prevention treatment, 80% of them experienced remission; that means that 80% of children in the study got better! But there was a group of children who relapsed. Children in the fluoxetine and CBT relapse prevention group stayed mentally healthy more than three months longer than those just receiving medication. Booster CBT relapse prevention therapy, along with appropriate medication management, has been shown to be effective in helping children diagnosed with MDD. Reviewing mastered skills, before they are needed, can help prevent further relapse, and quicker recovery, so that kids can get back to being kids. Emslie, G.J., Kennard, B.D., Mayes, T.L., Nakonezny, P.A., Moore, J., Jones, J.M., … King, J. (2015). Continued effectiveness of relapse prevention cognitive-behavioral therapy following fluoxetine treatment in youth with major depressive disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 54, 991-998. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2015.09.014
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • »

  • Records 1 to 10 of 38

Contact
L.I.F.T.

  • 358 Veterans Memorial Hwy
    Suite 12
    Commack, NY 11725
  • 631-656-6055