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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.

"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.

Social Anxiety in Young Children

Sometimes, walking into kindergarten can be super scary; new children, new teacher, no mommy. It may take a few days or weeks for some children to warm up and be comfortable. Those who don’t warm up, who continue to cry and have difficulty adjusting to novel social situations may be suffering from Social Anxiety. Social Anxiety doesn’t end in kindergarten, but may continue throughout a person’s lifespan. In young children, parents and caregivers are more likely to schedule social interactions, which help young children become less socially anxious. A recent study by Hoff et al (2015) found that older children who suffered from social anxiety had greater difficulty in social, academic, and overall functioning as they aged, even when home and family problems decreased. Interestingly, these social and academic problems were greater among children who suffered from social anxiety than those who suffered from other types of anxiety. It’s possible that socially anxious adolescents are more able to avoid social situations, whereas younger children’s social calendar is controlled by their parents. Whatever the cause, early intervention for social anxiety might prevent socially anxious younger children from becoming socially anxious adolescents and adults. Hoff, A.L., Kendall, P.C., Langley, A., Ginsburg, G., Keeton, C., Compton, S., … Piacentini, J. (2015) Developmental differences in functioning in youth with social phobia. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2015.1079779

Chocolate Chips

I just finished a bag of chocolate chips. To be fair, I had been slowly working through the bag for six months. But this morning, I finished the whole bag. By 9:30 in the morning. Getting all four kids off to school by myself wasn’t as difficult, or fraught with stress, as it could have been. But it’s wearing. And I know I’m not the only one. I’m not writing this to give myself, or you, a pep talk; I’m not looking for pity either. Just to say, sometimes, you have those days. Sometimes, my children are wonderful. They can be kind, and warm, and loving. They can be compassionate and conscientious. But most of the time, they aren’t. They yell at each other; they yell at their parents. They try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to homework and projects (“I don’t need to study”, or, “I kinda know it, it’ll be fine”). They don’t do their chores. Their rooms are a mess. And we, as parents, try to compensate. We say “It’s not a big deal, I can empty this dishwasher.” Or, “It was his first failure/suspension/whatever,” or, “Give him another chance.” Sometimes we just do it ourselves because it’s easier. And that’s exhausting. Raising children is mentally exhausting. Letting our kids make their own mistakes and missteps, while providing love and supervision is hard. Letting them know when they can try on their own (i.e. studying), and when the rules need to be obeyed (i.e. sitting down to a meal with the entire family), is tough. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Even the most oppositional child learns, eventually, what the family considers truly important. And the lessons they learn through their own trial and error make a greater impact than any amount of yelling or bribery we can offer. And so, go enjoy that occasional bag of chocolate chips. You earned it.

Ask Dr. Deena

Licensed clinical and school psychologist Dr. Deena Abbe has over a decade of experience successfully diagnosing, treating, and helping children and families live with ADHD/ADD, Autism, Depression, Anxiety, OCD, ODD, feeding concerns, and more. She has a thriving practice and is well-known for her sound and comprehensive mental health work. Dr. Abbe is a member of the New York State Psychological Association, Suffolk County Psychological Association, Association for Behavior and Cognitive Therapy, and American Psychological Association. For the next month leading up to National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, beginning on Sunday, May 3rd till Saturday May 9th, 2015, Dr. Abbe will be opening her social media pages for you to ask any mental health questions regarding children and youth. You can ask her your questions on Facebook, Twitter, the Long Island Child Psych website or via email. At the end of the month, Dr. Deena will choose a question and answer it in a vlog and post it on her social media sites during National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Ask Dr. Deena your questions through any of these channels: Facebook: Long Island Child Psych
Twitter: Dr. Deena Abbe Twitter Page (Tweet questions: @DrDeenaAbbe and hashtag #AskDrDeena, or send Dr. Deena a direct message)
Website: Long Island Child Psych website
Email: deena@longislandchildpsych.com Dr. Deena wants to help your family be its best.

My top 3 resources if you have kids with ADD/ADHD

Having kids is tough. Having a child with ADHD can be especially challenging, but it doesn’t need to be. As parents we need to remember that we are not alone. There are lots of resources in our own communities to help us. We teach our kids that there’s nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it; well it’s time to take our own advice and take advantage of the resources available. 1. Find a local mental health professional. Preferably someone who works with kids if you can find it, but if not, that ok too. Keep in mind; if you are ok, your kids are ok. They look to you to gauge their moods; to see if a situation is worthy of stress. Speaking to a professional and learning how to cope with your stress shows your kids how to handle their stress. If that person happens to specialize in working with children who have ADHD, that’s even better. 2. Community Centers can be a family friendly resource. Parenting groups, swim classes, babysitting, Mommy/Daddy and me programs etc. These classes are often available at a community center or place of worship within the community. There are therapists or counselors available in these centers who can help you and your child unwind and have a good time together. You’ll meet parents who are going through the same thing you are, who understand who your child is and where you are coming from. Chances are, the two of you are like-minded, because you are both there! It’s nice to enter a room and know that you are not alone. 3. Find a Park or an outdoor space and go. Running around and playing are wonderful places for you and your child to meet other people. Not to mention the exercise will help your child eat, sleep, and socialize better. Most of the parks are free of charge or a nominal fee, so you don’t have to worry about spending tons of money. Parks are places of beauty and nature that allow you and your child to literally run around and practice all the skills you work on at home and in therapy, so go out and enjoy! Different communities may have more specific resources. Utilize them and remember that you are not alone.

Free Session Giveaway!!!

Recently I wrote a post entitled, “Top Three Resources for Kids with ADHD“. In it I shared various ways you can get support if you have a child with ADHD. For parents and caregivers who live in New York State, I want to offer one of you an opportunity for some intentional support. Till Wednesday 28th January 2015, enter to win a free 45 minute session with me, Dr. Deena Abbe. Enter this giveaway for a free 45 minute session with me, either here on my blog or on my Facebook page. I want to help your family be its best.

How You Can Have a Holly, Jolly, Holiday At Home

Welcome to the Holidays! A time of joy! A time of songs, twinkling lights and presents! However, for kids with ADHD, it’s also a time of stress, fights, and chaos. For parents and caregivers of kids with ADHD, here’s some great news…it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some ideas to help make this holiday season calm and full of joy. Kids (and adults) with ADHD function best with structure. During school, or work, there is a schedule to follow, and they can lean on that to help support them. During the holiday season, that structure isn’t there. And oftentimes, they feel that their support is gone too. So, it’s our job to help create a structure for them. That might mean having a schedule set up every day, and sharing that with them the night before. It doesn’t mean you need every minute planned out, but you can’t be spontaneous and fly by the seat of your pants either. Don’t plan a day of running around. Many people can’t go from the mall to the park, to the restaurant, to the grocery store, to the playground and then to a friend’s house. They would need down time and so would your child with ADHD. So, limit what you plan to do throughout the day. Don’t overload the schedule, and you won’t overload your child. Give them something to do. If they are given a responsibility, oftentimes, they will live up to it. They get the opportunity to “own” it, and feel like they’re an important part of it. This goes a long way to help their self-esteem. So, take the time to give them a job, and don’t forget to give them credit and praise for a task well done. Even if they need a little bit of help to get through it. Lastly, remain calm. Take some time for yourself during the day. If it means 10 minutes of meditating, or taking a moment to savor a cup of coffee or eggnog (alcohol free, or course) in the morning, that’s going to help set the stage for the whole day, and possibly the entire holiday season. You are important! If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will. Also, when you take care of yourself, you are also showing your family how important it is to take care of THEMSELVES. For your children with and without ADHD, that’s an invaluable life lesson for them to learn. It’s a true gift from you to them. Happy Holidays!!!
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