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Young People … Our Greatest Resource

Mindfulness: The Art of the Pause (Guest: Dr. Frank Sileo)

Chances are you’ve heard the term “mindfulness.” It is a popular type of therapeutic treatment employed by mental health professionals. But its practice in a casual and relaxed everyday form can be refreshing and quite helpful. Listen in as Dr. James Sutton interviews psychologist Dr. Frank Sileo in this program entitled “Mindfulness: The Art of the Pause.”

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Few folks would argue the fact that, in this fast-paced world today, it pays to step briefly out of the pressure and drive, to pause to recharge and to appreciate all that is near us and with us here and now.

The Cost

Unfortunately, that pause, that reflective moment in time, doesn’t happen often enough. Life in the quick lane continues on, and we are so easily distracted by it. In cases of sustained, non-stop effort, pressure and activity, a cost can appear in the form of characteristics like anxiety, excessive worry, depression, and impulsive (and compulsive) thoughts, decisions and behaviors that bring more trouble than relief.

And it affects children and teens, not just adults.

What’s the Solution?

As one intervention, mental health professionals suggest the practice of mindfulness, the art of taking that reflective pause or break to reframe and step away from stressful situations in order to account for that which is positive and good. In fact, mindfulness is a popular form of therapeutic treatment today, and it’s proving to be effective across all age groups.

As our guest, psychologist and author Dr. Frank Sileo, puts it, it’s a look at all the “pausabilities.” In his new children’s book beautifully illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin, A World of Pausabilities: An Exercise in Mindfulness, he encourages youngsters to find those creative moments to pause, reflect on, and more fully appreciate the simple beauty of all that is around them every single day. What a great and timely topic for this program!

Dr. Frank Sileo

Dr. Sileo is a licensed psychologist and founder and executive director of the Center for Psychological Enhancement in Ridgewood, New Jersey. Since 2010, Frank has been consistently recognized as one of New Jersey’s top kids’ doctors. He has written a number of children’s books on topics that inform as they entertain, and they will be discussed in this program. (33:55)

www.drfranksileo.com

TO LISTEN, left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Link as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK

 

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December 3, 2017 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Communication, Compassion, Counselors, Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress, Success Strategies | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Volunteers: Something to Be Thankful For (Judge Tom Jacobs)

Volunteers: Something to Be Thankful For, Judge To JacobsIn celebration of the past Thanksgiving season, the Changing Behavior Network posted this special piece sent by Tom Jacobs, a retired judge and author from Arizona. Times of great need don’t follow a schedule; we must remain prepared for them at all times. Judge Jacobs speaks of his experiences while serving as a volunteer for the American Red Cross, and suggests how we might help, also. (This article first appeared in the November, 2017 issue of Arizona Attorney.)

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Shortly after Hurricane Harvey hit landfall in south Texas on August 25, 2017, state bar president Alex Vakula sent an email asking bar members to consider assisting those in need through donations and pro bono legal services. There is another way you can help in a national disaster. My story illustrates how you can step up and work directly with disaster victims, almost immediately.

Katrina

In August, 2005, I heard on the news an urgent call for 40,000 new volunteers for the American Red Cross to assist with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I had always regretted not responding to 9/11 and felt this was my chance to pitch in. Two days later, I was on my way to Montgomery, Alabama for a three-week deployment as an “event based volunteer” (EBV). I received a half-day orientation and was given a choice of assignments to choose from. I selected client-services since it would put me in direct contact with the evacuees from New Orleans and neighboring parishes.

After a short van ride with my team of twelve, we arrived in Jackson, Mississippi where our assignment was to interview 1,000 families a day. One hundred thousand people had been evacuated to the Jackson area. We worked in 12-hour shifts, ate when we could, and slept on cots in a staff shelter. In less than a week from the broadcast, I was meeting the evacuees and qualifying them for financial assistance. The need, as it is now with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and possibly Jose is great. EBVs will be needed at least for the next year.

The Joy of Helping Others

When I returned from Katrina, I was hooked on disaster relief. I completed the required courses through the Red Cross and became a certified driver of an emergency response vehicle (the red and white ambulance-looking trucks). My partner, Anne, and I have completed a dozen national deployments serving our clients in floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires. From California to the east coast, we have used the truck to deliver bulk supplies (cleaning and personal hygiene kits, cots, blankets, etc.) to shelters, and conduct fixed and mobile feeding.

In our Harvey deployment, we worked in three small towns in Texas (Edna, Inez and Telferner), delivering lunch and dinner to residents that were without power and water. Direct contact with people in dire straits is a hands-on experience and, admittedly, not for everyone. Even after a few short weeks, seeing them and their families twice a day, establishes a bond. There is nothing to compare with the thanks, hugs, handshakes, blessings and smiles bestowed upon us by our clients. That is our reward.

From the hindsight of a few weeks, in spite of the heat, humidity and mosquitoes (the size of a nickel), would we do it again? Absolutely. It’s the people in need and our ability to answer the call that will help us continue this work. It’s the little four year-old girl who looked at me and said “I’m hungry.” After giving her and her family dinner, she handed me a strip of bark from her front yard and said “This is for you. You can take it home.” Or Evan, a ten year-old boy who came to our truck just to say thanks. It’s the elderly man who hobbled to the truck to hand us a twenty-dollar bill (a fortune to him, we’re sure). We declined his offer since Red Cross assistance is free to everyone, and we don’t take donations out in the field.

Volunteers Needed

Some of the assignments available to the EBVs include shelter work, feeding, nursing and mental health services, damage assessment, warehouse, logistics, etc. You can apply your profession or occupation to specific needs of the disaster, or learn a new skill through Red Cross classes. During one disaster, when I had a half-day off (which is rare), I became a certified fork-lift operator. Again, not for everyone.

Consider becoming a Red Cross volunteer or, at least, an event based volunteer. Assisting others is addictive. Contact the American Red Cross at 602-336-6660; www.redcross.org

I brought that piece of bark home as a reminder of why we do this. ###

 

Judge Tom JacobsTom Jacobs was an assistant attorney general in Arizona for 13 years before being appointed to the Maricopa County Supreme Court. He presided over juvenile and family court matters for 23 years, retiring in 2008. Judge Jacobs is the founder of the teen-law website, AskTheJudge.info. His books on teen law include What Are My Rights? and Teen Cyberbullying Investigated. He and his daughter, Natalie, co-authored the most recent book, Every Vote Matters: The Power of Your Voice.

 

November 26, 2017 Posted by | Communication, Compassion, courage, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Special Occasions, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On Thoughts of Veterans Day: Eleanor’s Prayer (Dr. James Sutton)

Here’s a beautiful story about a woman in uniform during World War II … the uniform of the American Red Cross. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt served her country well, always mindful of the sacrifices being made.

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Eleanor Roosevelt wasn’t only the most active wartime First Lady, her efforts to improve quality of life, ease human suffering, and promote a more substantial role for women in America went on for many years after her husband, President Franklin Roosevelt, died while in office in 1945.

As First Lady during World War II, Eleanor performed tireless service for her country through the American Red Cross. All of her sons (John, FDR Jr., Elliott and James) served their country, also. (Two were in the Navy, one in the Army Air Corps, and one in the Marines.)

The Pacific TOUR

At one point in the war, the Red Cross wanted to send Eleanor on a tour of the Pacific Theater, so she could meet and encourage the troops, especially those that were wounded and were confined to hospitals and hospital ships.

On Thoughts of Veteran's Day: Eleanor's Prayer

You can imagine Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz’ hesitation about such a gesture. In addition to the logistics of moving the president’s wife to locations in the Pacific, the war was still going on in many of those places. What if she were to be injured or killed, or what if she were to be captured by the enemy? The admiral’s concerns were painfully real.

But, of course, who can say, “No!” to the American Red Cross and the White House? Eleanor Roosevelt did complete the tour. She kept up a schedule that would have exhausted a younger person, and, in doing so, brought an uplifting message of support and hope from the folks back home.

Admiral Nimitz praised her efforts and shared with her and President Roosevelt the positive impact of her visits with the troops. In the end, he heartily agreed her tour of the Pacific was a huge success. All who worked at the mammoth task of getting her where she needed to go were impressed with her energy, grace, and cooperative spirit throughout the entire tour.

Eleanor’s Prayer

There a low granite wall at Pearl Harbor that carries the text of a prayer Eleanor Roosevelt wrote during the war. It was said that she carried this text in her wallet all through the war. It says much about the character of this great and gracious woman:

Dear Lord, lest I continue my complacent way, help me to remember somewhere out there a man died for me today. As long as there is war, I then must ask and answer: “AM I WORTH DYING FOR?”

Psychologist Dr. James Sutton is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. He is a Navy veteran and served two assignments in support of the Third Marine Amphibious Force in Vietnam.

November 11, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Communication, Compassion, courage, family, Human Interest, Inspirational, Integrity, Parents, patriotism, Resilience, Self-esteem, Special Occasions, veterans | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Can Our Children Carry on the Family Values? (Dr. Dan Trussell)

BTAboutThemWhile most parents don’t expect that their children will become carbon copies of their parents, they likely want their children to live “the good life,” one full of integrity, honor and justice.

Can Our Children Carry on the Family Values, Dr. Dan TrussellThoughtful parents put a great deal of effort into instilling their own values, attitudes, and a solid moral framework for their children to take into young adulthood. But how do parents know they are really “getting through” and that their children will embrace similar values, attitudes and an ethical frame of reference to pass on to their own children?

Children who can easily articulate the values that belong to the family and who have had these values reinforced through action over words tend to fare better in living out these values as they leave home and go out into a world full of competing choices.

How Families Flourish Workbook, Dr. Dan TrussellResearch suggests that children who are taught age appropriate self-determination (as defined by Deci and Ryan as supporting one’s natural or intrinsic tendencies to behave in effective and healthy ways) are better equipped to understand why a family has certain attitudes toward family attitudes and values around justice, family loyalty and respect, the role of the individual in community, social, school and work life, health and wellness goals, spiritual or religious affiliation and other values the family has honored over generations.
Likewise, teaching your child to think critically can strongly reinforce similar values in him or her. As the youngster becomes more independent in the world, this tool will serve them well.

Engaging with your child not just about what your values are, but why you find them important and the natural consequences of violating them, improves adoption of the values you think your child will need to carry into adult life.
Piaget and developmental psychology expects that children are typically unable to perform functional critical thinking before around the age of eleven. Fully independent reasoning, judgment and prudence are exhibited around 25 to 30 years of age. Nonetheless, it is never too early to explain why you have rules, values and attitudes, and to explore with your child a way to manifest those values.

Both self-determination and critical thinking are building blocks toward helping to establish your child’s desire to not only embrace the values you find important but to act upon their own value system to pass on to the next generation. ###

Daniel Trussell, Ph.D., MBA, LPC, NCC, CPCS is author of The How Families Flourish Workbook and How Families Flourish. He is a certified Professional Counselor supervisor and conducts training for both professionals and families in incorporating the findings from positive psychology into daily life. He can be reached at drdanieltrussell@gmail.com. [website]

 

 

October 29, 2017 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Communication, Compassion, Discipline, family, Healthy living, Integrity, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teaching Kids Happiness and Innovation (Guest: Mike Ferry)

BTRadioIntWhat is it, really, that creates and sustains happiness in ourselves and in our children? Listen in to this program from our archives as Mike Ferry, banking on his research and experience in working with young people, offers valuable insights into this important and fascinating topic.

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Some define happiness as a positive by-product of success. In other words, if you are successful enough, you’ll be happy.

Teaching Kids Happiness and InnovationBut that definition doesn’t square with the fact that there are plenty of folks who have the appearance of success, yet they are NOT happy. Evidence and research at this point indicate precisely the opposite position: Happy people tend to be successful people, and they conduct their lives and relationships in a manner that is sustainable and consistent with their closest-held values.

Author and teacher, Mike Ferry, defines happiness as an optimistic, communal and disciplined perspective on life. Every part of that definition makes sense; it’s worth sharing with our children as a major lesson in life.

Happiness and Innovation Mike FerryIn this valuable and informative program, Mike discusses authentic happiness and how it can be combined with innovation and a growth mindset to give our children a strong base, a platform for managing life in a world containing more than its share of challenges. Mike’s here also to suggest how we can encourage our kids to develop and demonstrate other valuable attributes like gratitude, perseverance, mindfulness, purpose, tolerance, collaboration, faith and creativity. All of these will contribute to their happiness and a life well-lived.

Mike’s in-depth research and his years as a middle school teacher and father of four all come together in a book that’s the focus of this program. It’s entitled, Teaching Happiness and Innovation. (28:50)

http://www.happinessandinnovation.com

TO LISTEN, left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Link as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK

 

August 20, 2017 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Communication, Compassion, Educators, family, Healthy living, Parents, Success Strategies | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

7 Ways Childhood Adversity Can Change Your Brain (Donna Jackson Nakazawa)

According to science journalist and author, Donna Jackson Nakazawa, early emotional trauma changes who we are, but we can do something about it. This article, reprinted here with the author’s permission, first appeared in a Psychology Today blog of August 7, 2015.
(Donna wrote this as Part I; Part II offers science-based methods for reversing the changes related to ACEs. Part II can be accessed through a link at the bottom of this article.)

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7 Ways Childhood Adversity Can Change Your Brain, Donna Jackson NakazawaIf you’ve ever wondered why you’ve been struggling a little too hard for a little too long with chronic emotional and physical health conditions that just won’t abate, feeling as if you’ve been swimming against some invisible current that never ceases, a new field of scientific research may offer hope, answers, and healing insights.

In 1995, physicians Vincent Felitti and Robert Anda launched a large-scale epidemiological study that probed the child and adolescent histories of 17,000 subjects, comparing their childhood experiences to their later adult health records. The results were shocking: Nearly two-thirds of individuals had encountered one or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)—a term Felitti and Anda coined to encompass the chronic, unpredictable, and stress-inducing events that some children face. These included growing up with a depressed or alcoholic parent; losing a parent to divorce or other causes; or enduring chronic humiliation, emotional neglect, or sexual or physical abuse. These forms of emotional trauma went beyond the typical, everyday challenges of growing up. (For stories of those who faced childhood adversity, see these videos on Laura and John, two patients featured in my newest book, Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal.)

The number of Adverse Childhood Experiences an individual had had predicted the amount of medical care she’d require as an adult with surprising accuracy:

• Individuals who had faced 4 or more categories of ACEs were twice as likely to be diagnosed with cancer as individuals who hadn’t experienced childhood adversity.
• For each ACE Score a woman had, her risk of being hospitalized with an autoimmune disease rose by 20 percent.
• Someone with an ACE Score of 4 was 460 percent more likely to suffer from depression than someone with an ACE Score of 0.
• An ACE Score greater than or equal to 6 shortened an individual’s lifespan by almost 20 years.

Childhood Disrupted, Donna Jackson NakazawaThe ACE Study tells us that experiencing chronic, unpredictable toxic stress in childhood predisposes us to a constellation of chronic conditions in adulthood. But why? Today, in labs across the country, neuroscientists are peering into the once inscrutable brain-body connection, and breaking down, on a biochemical level, exactly how the stress we face when we’re young catches up with us when we’re adults, altering our bodies, our cells, and even our DNA. What they’ve found may surprise you.

Some of these scientific findings can be a little overwhelming to contemplate. They compel us to take a new look at how emotional and physical pain are intertwined. (For more on why I wrote about how ACEs can change the way we see illness and how we do medicine, see this video.)

[In Part I of this article, we’ll talk about the science of early adversity and how it changes us. In Part II, we’ll talk about all the science-based ways in which we can reverse these changes, and get back to who it is we hope to be, so stay tuned for the good news.]

1. Epigenetic Shifts

When we’re thrust over and over again into stress-inducing situations during childhood or adolescence, our physiological stress response shifts into overdrive, and we lose the ability to respond appropriately and effectively to future stressors—10, 20, even 30 years later. This happens due to a process known as gene methylation, in which small chemical markers, or methyl groups, adhere to the genes involved in regulating the stress response, and prevent these genes from doing their jobs. As the function of these genes is altered, the stress response becomes re-set on “high” for life, promoting inflammation and disease.
This can make us more likely to over-react to the everyday stressors we meet in our adult life—an unexpected bill, a disagreement with a spouse, or a car that swerves in front of us on the highway, creating more inflammation. This, in turn, predisposes us to a host of chronic conditions, including autoimmune disease, heart disease, cancer, and depression.

Indeed, Yale researchers recently found that children who’d faced chronic, toxic stress showed changes “across the entire genome,” in genes that not only oversee the stress response, but also in genes implicated in a wide array of adult diseases. This new research on early emotional trauma, epigenetic changes, and adult physical disease breaks down longstanding delineations between what the medical community has long seen as “physical” disease versus what is “mental” or “emotional.”

2. Size and Shape of the Brain

Scientists have found that when the developing brain is chronically stressed, it releases a hormone that actually shrinks the size of the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible of processing emotion and memory and managing stress. Recent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies suggest that the higher an individual’s ACE Score, the less gray matter he or she has in other key areas of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex, an area related to decision-making and self-regulatory skills, and the amygdala, or fear-processing center. Kids whose brains have been changed by their Adverse Childhood Experiences are more likely to become adults who find themselves over-reacting to even minor stressors.

3. Neural Pruning

Children have an overabundance of neurons and synaptic connections; their brains are hard at work, trying to make sense of the world around them. Until recently, scientists believed that the pruning of excess neurons and connections was achieved solely in a “use-it-or-lose-it” manner, but a surprising new player in brain development has appeared on the scene: non-neuronal brain cells—known as microglia, which make up one-tenth of all the cells in the brain, and are actually part of the immune system—participate in the pruning process. These cells prune synapses like a gardener prunes a hedge. They also engulf and digest entire cells and cellular debris, thereby playing an essential housekeeping role.

But when a child faces unpredictable, chronic stress of Adverse Childhood Experiences, microglial cells “can get really worked up and crank out neurochemicals that lead to neuroinflammation,” says Margaret McCarthy, PhD, whose research team at the University of Maryland Medical Center studies the developing brain. “This below-the-radar state of chronic neuroinflammation can lead to changes that reset the tone of the brain for life.”

That means that kids who come into adolescence with a history of adversity and lack the presence of a consistent, loving adult to help them through it may become more likely to develop mood disorders or have poor executive functioning and decision-making skills.

4. Telomeres

Early trauma can make children seem “older,” emotionally speaking, than their peers. Now, scientists at Duke University; the University of California, San Francisco; and Brown University have discovered that Adverse Childhood Experiences may prematurely age children on a cellular level as well. Adults who’d faced early trauma show greater erosion in what are known as telomeres—the protective caps that sit on the ends of DNA strands, like the caps on shoelaces, to keep the genome healthy and intact. As our telomeres erode, we’re more likely to develop disease, and our cells age faster.

5. Default Mode Network

Inside each of our brains, a network of neurocircuitry, known as the “default mode network,” quietly hums along, like a car idling in a driveway. It unites areas of the brain associated with memory and thought integration, and it’s always on stand-by, ready to help us to figure out what we need to do next. “The dense connectivity in these areas of the brain help us to determine what’s relevant or not relevant, so that we can be ready for whatever our environment is going to ask of us,” explains Ruth Lanius, neuroscientist, professor of psychiatry, and director of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Research Unit at the University of Ontario.

But when children face early adversity and are routinely thrust into a state of fight-or-flight, the default mode network starts to go offline; it’s no longer helping them to figure out what’s relevant, or what they need to do next. According to Lanius, kids who’ve faced early trauma have less connectivity in the default mode network—even decades after the trauma occurred. Their brains don’t seem to enter that healthy idling position—and so they may have trouble reacting appropriately to the world around them.

6. Brain-Body Pathway

Until recently, it’s been scientifically accepted that the brain is “immune-privileged,” or cut off from the body’s immune system. But that turns out not to be the case, according to a groundbreaking study conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Researchers found that an elusive pathway travels between the brain and the immune system via lymphatic vessels. The lymphatic system, which is part of the circulatory system, carries lymph—a liquid that helps to eliminate toxins, and moves immune cells from one part of the body to another. Now we know that the immune system pathway includes the brain.

The results of this study have profound implications for ACE research. For a child who’s experienced adversity, the relationship between mental and physical suffering is strong: the inflammatory chemicals that flood a child’s body when she’s chronically stressed aren’t confined to the body alone; they’re shuttled from head to toe.

7. Brain Connectivity

Ryan Herringa, neuropsychiatrist and assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin, found that children and teens who’d experienced chronic childhood adversity showed weaker neural connections between the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus. Girls also displayed weaker connections between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. The prefrontal-cortex-amygdala relationship plays an essential role in determining how emotionally reactive we’re likely to be to the things that happen to us in our day-to-day life, and how likely we are to perceive these events as stressful or dangerous.

According to Herringa:

If you are a girl who has had Adverse Childhood Experiences and these brain connections are weaker, you might expect that in just about any stressful situation you encounter as life goes on, you may experience a greater level of fear and anxiety.

Girls with these weakened neural connections, Herringa found, stood at a higher risk for developing anxiety and depression by the time they reached late adolescence. This may, in part, explain why females are nearly twice as likely as males to suffer from later mood disorders.

This science can be overwhelming, especially to those of us who are parents. So, what can you do if you or a child you love has been affected by early adversity? The good news is that, just as our scientific understanding of how adversity affects the developing brain is growing, so is our scientific insight into how we can offer the children we love resilient parenting, and how we can all take small steps to heal body and brain. Just as physical wounds and bruises heal, just as we can regain our muscle tone, we can recover function in under-connected areas of the brain. The brain and body are never static; they are always in the process of becoming and changing. ###

For Part II, “8 Ways People Recover From Post Childhood Adversity Syndrome,” CLICK HERE.

 

Donna Jackson Nakazawa is an award-winning science journalist interested in exploring the intersection between neuroscience, immunology, and the deepest inner workings of the human heart. In addition to this book, Childhood Disrupted, she has authored The Autoimmune Epidemic and The Last Best Cure. For more information on Donna and her work, visit her website.

 

 

July 2, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Anxiety and Depression, Compassion, Difficult Child, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life Lessons Learned in a Texas Oil Field (Dr. James Sutton)

Thoughts of Fathers Day (2017) still bring back memories of how my dad once helped me manage a frightening and emotionally extreme situation. Although he was not a professional educator, my father still stands as one of the best teachers I ever had. –JDS

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Life Lessons Learned in a Texas Oilfield, Dr. James SuttonMy first driving lesson came close to killing me and my father.

In late junior high and early high school, I had a summer job of working with my father in the oilfields south of San Antonio. On a slow day, we piled into Dad’s company vehicle (a Dodge) for my very first driving lesson.

Collision Course

I lost control of the clutch, and we lurched into a collision course with a battery of oil storage tanks. As I panicked, my right leg stiffened; my foot jammed the accelerator to the floor.

It was all over; there wasn’t a shred of doubt in my mind about it.

But Dad didn’t panic. He quickly cut the ignition and turned the wheel just enough to avoid hitting the tanks. We plowed safely into the soft, sandy bank of a water pit.

He was not upset; I WAS. I vowed I would never, never, ever again occupy the driver’s seat. I was done … finished!

Life Lessons Learned in a South Texas Oil Field“Jimmy, what’s this car doing right at this moment?’ he asked patiently, certainly sensing my panic.

“Well, uh, well … nothing, Dad. The car’s not doing anything right now.”

“That’s right. And it’s NOT going to do anything. Unless you make something happen, this car simply will sit here until it’s a pile of rust.”

Lessons Learned

We continued the lesson. I learned to drive that day, but I also learned two things that would follow me for life. I learned that Fred Sutton, although not a professional educator, was an excellent teacher. I also learned that knowledge, confidence in one’s skills, and meaningful relationships (certainly including spiritual relationships) are powerful antidotes for whatever the world might throw at any of us.

I’ve often thought how easy it would be for a parent to scream out or yell at a son or daughter caught up in such a situation, especially when that parent is also frightened. Who could blame them; most of us have “been there.” It would be a pretty natural response.

I believe Dad intuitively knew that lecturing me about my driving mistakes would have served no real purpose. True to that thought, he never said another word about it to me. If he figured I had learned that lesson well enough with no need for additional reminders, he was correct.

Over the years, I have tried to follow his example, but not perfectly, by any means. Put another way, here’s what I believe it means:

It’s easy to be part of the problem, but it’s so much better to be part of the solution.

Dad passed away in 1998 after a gallant struggle with cancer. Since then, there have been many times when I wished I could climb back into that old Dodge for just one more lesson from a great teacher.

 

A nationally recognized (and now mostly retired) child and adolescent psychologist, author and speaker, Dr. James Sutton is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network.

 

June 26, 2017 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Anxiety and Depression, Compassion, courage, Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Ways to Make Your Teen Happier (Mike Ferry)

As author Mike Ferry points out, adolescents today experience alarming rates of depression and stress. He shares five ways parents can help their teen be happier. We present, “Five Ways to Make Your Teen Happier.”

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Five Ways to Make Your Teen Happier (Mike Ferry)Pimples. Hormonal changes. Emotional extremes. Argumentativeness. Romantic relationships. If you have an adolescent son or daughter, you may be living through these and other aspects of the teen years. It’s a period of great upheaval, for kids and parents (not to mention the teachers who never escape the drama of middle and high school).

Stress, anxiety and depression

Adolescence has always been hard, but today’s teens are having an especially difficult time. For a variety of reasons, teens are suffering from higher rates of stress, anxiety, and depression than ever before. Consider this statistic:

17% of high school students seriously consider suicide (22.4% of girls)

That’s unbelievable! Unfortunately, the trend continues into the college years:

54% of college students have extreme anxiety
30% of college students suffer from severe depression

As parents, there are some strategies we can employ to help our teenage children endure this rough patch and emerge stronger in young adulthood. We can practice these “protective factors” at home to boost our kids’ emotional immune systems.

Five Things Parents Can Do

Here are five ways to make teens happier and to promote long-term positive mental health.

Teaching Happiness and Innovation, Mike Ferry(1) Have a consistent home or family routine. I know how tough this can be. My wife and I have four kids; managing their sports schedules and social calendars seems harder than running a federal agency. If possible, try to have at least one family meal per week. You could also plan a family game night once a month and make it clear that nothing will take priority over it.

(2) Promote healthy habits. Our physical health impacts our emotional health. Encourage plenty of exercise and a healthy diet. Sleep is often sacrificed due to homework and hanging out with friends, but it is an essential aspect of sound mental health. Do all you can to help your teen get at least eight or nine hours of sleep every night.

(3) Practice spirituality. Teens are trying to figure out who they are and how they fit into the world. Spirituality offers emotional support and guidance, in addition to a sense of purpose. If your family actively practices religion, help your teen grow in the faith by attending services on a regular basis. Getting involved with your religious community’s youth group strengthens social bonds and creates shared experiences that can sustain your teen in difficult times.

(4) Boost confidence. Many teens suffer from negative self-esteem. This may result from poor body image, stressful social interactions, or feeling inadequate in some way. You can help your teen feel more confident by celebrating his or her victories, large and small. Show your teen that effort leads to results, and that he or she has the power to achieve success in a variety of areas. For more ideas, you can check out my blog post on ways to develop a growth mindset in your child.

(5) Know what’s going on. Monitor your teen’s activities, both in the “real world” and online. Take a peek every now and then at your son or daughter’s social media profiles. Invite your teen’s friends to your house to hang out. Stay in touch with how your child is doing at school and beyond. Often, troubling emotional situations can be avoided by proactive and positive parenting.

Hang in there, parents of teens! It’s a wild and unpredictable ride, but it will be over before you know it. Your child will grow up and leave the nest (hopefully) with the tools needed for academic and personal success. With a great deal of patience and care, we can get our teens on track for stronger mental health in the present and down the road. If you’re interested in learning more ways to guide your teenage child through this tumultuous time, you may want to check out my online course, “The Parent’s Guide To Surviving Adolescence.”

Mike Ferry is the author of Teaching Happiness and Innovation. A middle school history teacher in Richmond, VA, Mike is raising four (mostly happy) children with his wife, Jenny. For more information about teaching happiness to children, visit www.happinessandinnovation.com. Twitter @MikeFerry7

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Anxiety and Depression, Compassion, Counselors, Educators, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Foster Kid’s Dilemma: Wo Gets the Life Raft? (Shenandoah Chefalo)

What happens when youngsters have to make “grown-up” decisions regarding their own welfare? Former foster youth and author, Shenandoah Chefalo, shares this eye-opening, candid account of such an experience and what she learned from it.

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Shenandoah Chefalo, A Foster Kid's Dilemma: Who Gets the Life Raft?Writing for my blog is sometimes problematic for me. I try to be as transparent as possible and talk about the things that are truly affecting my life in the moment. I want it to be honest, of course, but sometimes that means discussing emotions and feelings that are difficult or painful to put into words.

An Unexpected Answer

Recently, I was at an event and a woman asked a question that I hear often: “How did you overcome the abandonment of your mother?” My answer is burdensome and often shocking for audiences. The truth is, I never felt abandoned by my mother. Instead, I felt that I had abandoned her.

I had spent much of my childhood taking care of my mother, worrying about her, and making sure she was okay. When I was 13, she disappeared for a few days, then a few weeks. It wasn’t shocking to me; it was my “normal.”

When she still hadn’t reappeared, and my grandmother was going to be evicted from her housing, I knew I had to call social services. It was a difficult call for me to make; one that I would wish, time and time again, that I hadn’t made. Making that call always felt like I was watching a life raft for one float by, and I selfishly took it for myself.

When people hear this story, I can see a bit of shock come across their faces. It is difficult to put into words the loyalty I felt for my mother, and the betrayal I carry in my heart. As an adult, I cognitively understand my decision, and most do, also, but the betrayal I feel I caused hasn’t lessened.

Garbage Bag Suitcase, Shenandoah ChefaloA Matter of Loyalty

After the most recent presidential election results started coming in, I was struck with the notion of loyalty and how the weight of that emotion can be viewed, oftentimes confused for betrayal. As defined, loyalty is a strong feeling of support or allegiance to someone or something. It is a feeling or attitude of devoted attachment and affection. As a society, it is a trait we hold in high regard. In fact, any sign of disloyalty is often met with cries of one not being patriotic, a traitor, a crybaby, or various four-letter expletives.

And, that is why, after not seeing my birth mother for over 27 years, I still have feelings of disloyalty toward her and feel as I am the one who betrayed her. Abandonment was never my trigger or emotion. It is also why I have difficulty discussing those feelings; any sign of estrangement or retreat creates feelings (and brings accusations) that I was wrong in my decision to save myself.

Complicated

These emotions are complicated when children enter foster care; old families, new families, changing families … the feelings and questions come to the surface:

How can you be loyal to everyone? Can you ever?

Whom do you betray?

How do you protect yourself?

Is it ever OK to be disloyal? If so, who decides who gets the life raft?

Sometimes you just need to pick up the phone.

Shenandoah Chefalo is an advocate and a former foster youth. She is the author of the memoir, Garbage Bag Suitcase, and co-founder of Good Harbor Institute, an organization focused on ensuring sustainable, implemented trauma care within organizations and individuals. You can learn more about her and her work at www.garbagebagsuitcase.com or www.goodharborinst.com

 

April 10, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Anxiety and Depression, Compassion, courage, Difficult Child, Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Homeless Clown: The Gift of Receiving (Dr. James Sutton)

The Changing Behavior Network, Radio-style InterviewThis short program doesn’t feature the typical interview with an author. Instead, Dr. James Sutton, the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network, turns on the microphone and simply shares his thoughts on giving, receiving, and the importance of youngsters to have a positive and active purpose, especially when idleness can stir up a LOT of trouble. Presented here is “A Homeless Clown: The Gift of Receiving.”

A Valuable Lesson

A Homeless Clown: The Gift of Receiving, The Changing Behavior NetworkListen in as Jim shares a lesson he learned when he was seven or eight, and how, almost five decades later, he experienced that same lesson, a lesson in receiving, being used very effectively. Isn’t there always a place for learning to receive well?

A homeless clown? Yes; it’s sad, but true. But in this case, the clown played an important part in teaching a group of at-risk boys how to receive a less-than-attractive gift.

Dr. James Sutton

Improving a Youngster's Self-Esteem, Dr. James SuttonDr. Sutton is a “mostly retired” child and adolescent psychologist that started off as a Special Education teacher. He has worked with children and adolescents in the school and clinical settings, and has lectured extensively in the US and Canada regarding ways to effectively reach, teach, manage and treat youngsters with emotional and behavioral disabilities.

Dr. Sutton has authored more than a dozen books, including the e-book we are featuring here, Improving a Youngster’s Self-Esteem (revised). (12:23)

Learn More About THIS BOOK

 

TO LISTEN, left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Link as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK

 

January 1, 2017 Posted by | adversity, Anxiety and Depression, Compassion, Counselors, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Integrity, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Tablecloth: A Story for the Christmas Season

BTLifesMoments
Jim Gentil, my friend in Austin, Texas, published this story about nine years ago in his online newsletter, The Power of Positive Living. It captures the essence of the Christmas season. It was originally written by Howard C. Schade under the title of “The Ivory and Gold Tablecloth.” May this story bless your soul, as it has mine. –JDS

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At Christmas time, men and women everywhere gather in their churches to wonder anew at the greatest miracle the world has ever known. But the story I like best to recall was not a huge miracle — not exactly.

It happened to a pastor who was very young. His church was very old. Once, long ago, it had flourished. Famous men had preached from its pulpit and prayed before its altar. Rich and poor alike had worshipped there and built it beautifully. Now, the good days had passed from the section of town where it stood.

But the pastor and his young wife believed in their run-down-church. They felt that, with hard work and lots of faith they could get it in shape. Together they went to work.

The Storm

stormBut, late in December, a severe story whipped through the river valley; the worst blow fell on the church. A huge chunk of rain-soaked plaster fell out of the inside wall just behind the altar. Sorrowfully the pastor and his wife swept away the mess, but they could not hide the ragged hole.

The pastor looked at it and had to remind himself quickly, “Thy will be done!” But his wife wept, “Christmas is only two days away!”

That afternoon the dispirited couple attended an auction held for the benefit of a youth group. The auctioneer opened a box and shook out of its folds a gloriously beautiful, very ornately sewn, gold and ivory lace tablecloth.

It was a magnificent item, nearly 15 feet long. But it, too, dated from a long vanished era. Who had any use for such a thing today. There were a few half-hearted bids, then the pastor was seized with what he thought was a great idea.

He bid it in for $6.50.

He carried the glorious gold and ivory lace cloth back to the church and very carefully put it up on the wall behind the altar. It completely hid the hole! And the extraordinary beauty of its shimmering handwork cast a fine, holiday glow over the chancel.

It was a great triumph. Happily, he went back to preparing his Christmas sermon.

The Woman in the Cold

busstopJust before noon on the day of Christmas Eve, as the pastor was opening the church, he noticed a woman standing in the cold at the bus stop.

“The bus won’t be here for 40 minutes!” he called, inviting her into the church to get warm.

She told him she had come from the city that morning to be interviewed for a job as governess to the children of one of the wealthy families in town, but she had been turned down. As a Jewish war refugee, her English was imperfect.

The woman sat down in a pew and chafed her hands and rested. After a while, she dropped her head and prayed.

She then looked up and saw the great gold and ivory cloth. She rose suddenly and walked up the steps of the chancel.

She looked a the beautiful tablecloth with with remembering eyes.

“It is Mine!”

The pastor smiled and started to tell her about the storm damage, but she didn’t seem to listen. She took up a fold of the cloth and lovingly rubbed it between her fingers as tears welled in her kind eyes.

But they were happy tears of recognition.

“It is mine!” she said. “It is my banquet cloth!” She lifted up a corner and showed the surprised pastor that there were initials monogrammed on it.

“My husband had the cloth made especially for me in Brussels! There could not be another like it.”

For the next few minutes the woman and the pastor talked excitedly together. She explained that she was Viennese, and that, in being Jews, she and her husband wanted to flee from the Nazis. They were advised to go separately. Her husband put her on a train for Switzerland. They planned that he would join her as soon as he could arrange to ship their household goods across the border.

But she never saw him again. Later, she heard he had died in a concentration camp.

“I have always felt it was my fault to leave without him,” she said. “Perhaps these years of wandering have been my punishment.”

The pastor tried to comfort her and urged her to take the beautiful cloth with her. But she refused saying, “No, no, the cloth has found its way to you. You need it. It has purpose here; I want you to have it. I am happy knowing you have it.”

She gazed lovingly up at the magnificent gold and ivory lace cloth, then quietly went away.

The Repairman

As the church began to fill on Christmas Eve, it was clear that the magnificent cloth was going to be a great success. It has been skillfully designed to look its best by candlelight.

The glorious gold and ivory lace cloth actually glowed in the candlelight. It cast lovely fine designs on the walls and ceilings of the church. Everyone looked around in wonderment, and a tranquil ambiance was cast over all.

After the service, the pastor stood at the doorway. Many people told him the church looked more beautiful than ever before.

chimesFrom the generous donations that were given, a few days later the pastor had the local jeweler, who was also the clock-and-watch repairman, come to repair the church chimes.

The repairman’s gentle middle-aged face drew into a look of great astonishment! As if in a trance, he walked right up to the beautiful cloth and looked upon it intently.

“It is strange,” he said in his soft accent. “Many years ago, my wife, God rest her, and I owned such a cloth. My wife put it on the table (and here he gave a big smile) for holidays and when the Rabbi came to dinner.”

Reunited

The pastor suddenly became very excited. He told the jeweler about the woman who had been in the church to get warm, saw the cloth, and recognized it to be hers.

The startled jeweler clutched the pastor’s arm. “Can it be?” he said, through desperate tears.

Together the two got in touch with the family who had interviewed the woman for the governess position and got her address. Then they both drove to the city.

The jeweler knocked on the heavy, weathered door. As it opened, there stood his beloved wife. The many years of separation were immediately washed away by their blissful tears. They held each other in loving embraces, never to be parted again.

Purpose in the Storm

True love seems to find a way. To all who hear or read this story, the joyful purpose of the storm was to knock a hole in the wall of the church.

So, Dear Ones, the next time something knocks a hole in your dreams or your goals, just remember to have enough faith and enough belief in those dreams and goals to lovingly and creatively hang your own brilliant lace cloth over the temporary mar.

Then watch the miracles come. ###

December 24, 2016 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Anxiety and Depression, Compassion, Human Interest, Inspirational, Integrity, Resilience, Self-esteem, Special Occasions | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

15 Tips to Organize and Enjoy the Holidays, Part Two (Alison Kero)

15 Tips to Organize and Enjoy the Holidays, Alison KeroThe holiday season can be a special time of togetherness for families, especially when the kids are out of school and are home for the holidays. But it can also be a frustrating and less-than-perfect time, especially when the kids are out of school and are home for the holidays. Organization specialist, Alison Kero, offers us some great tips to help make this holiday season the best ever at YOUR house. We present, “15 Tips to Organize and Enjoy the Holidays.” (This is Part Two, as we conclude this two-part post.)

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Alison Kero, ACK Organizing(Continued from Part One)

#9 Expect the Unexpected: Chaos happens despite our best intentions or how organized you are. Expect that you’ll burn something, forget something or a kid will throw up at the worst possible time because then, when it actually happens, you won’t be thrown off. To help you stay organized, add in extra time for unexpected delays, especially when traveling, and even consider throwing a frozen lasagne in your freezer as a “just in case” to help you remain calm in the midst of unexpected chaos and you might even enjoy the holidays more knowing you have a backup just in case.

#10 Ask for Help: Even Santa has helpers. Hire or ask people to help you with such task as: a professional cleaning service to do the cleaning, a catering company to do the cooking, asking customer service or the online store to wrap gifts for you, use decorative bags to place your gifts in (no talent necessary), ask friends and family to help you decorate, ask friends and family to help you take down the decorations, and lastly, if you need additional emotional support, schedule a session with a therapist so you can manage the holidays more easily. Outsource or delegate what you don’t like doing or don’t have time to do and no, it doesn’t make you less of a person to ask for help; it makes you a smart person who recognizes you need and deserve support.

# 11 Keep It Simple: Intelligent people love to solve complicated riddles. It makes them thrive. The problem is when they get in their own way and start over-complicating simple matters, thinking everything must be solved in a complex manner. Not every problem is complex and sometimes a simple answer is the best and easiest solution. Simple doesn’t equal stupid, rather simple actually allows you to then focus on complex matters while allowing the simple things to flow easily to and from your life. Simple will keep you sane and organized this holiday season. So, if the lights don’t work, consider buying new ones rather than spending hours hunting down one old-fashioned light bulb to get the whole strand working again.

#12 You Don’t Have to Keep It All: This is in reference to any clutter you might accumulate during the holidays. Whether it’s spiritual clutter because once again you say “yes” when you really mean “no!”, or emotional clutter that you accumulate when someone criticizes your efforts, or the physical clutter you have by keeping every gift anyone has ever given you out of sheer guilt. Let it go. Let it ALL go. Do your best this holiday season by continuing to let anything go that won’t allow you to be happy, healthy or productive in your life.

#13 Plan Ahead: If you already know that you are looking at a busy schedule, actually using your scheduler will help you see where you have time to run errands, shop, bake or just relax and enjoy yourself. If you plan everything you need to do and everything you want to do ahead of time, you’re much more likely to achieve an enjoyable holiday feeling relaxed and organized.

#14 Don’t Get Stuck In the Past: We all have great memories of holidays in the past with certain decorations or traditions being carried out year after year. However, sometimes traditions no longer work within a new environment and decorations get old, break or no longer work. While we all want to recreate what we felt was a great memory, it’s also just as great to create new memories or collect new decorations. It doesn’t mean you aren’t respecting the past, it’s just that you are also allowing for new experiences to come in and create wonderful new memories for you and your family. You’ll enjoy yourself more if you’re willing to let go when you realize it’s time to move forward.

#15 Breathe: Sounds simple, but it will save your sanity. No matter what holiday you celebrate, there will be a point where you feel overwhelmed, annoyed, frustrated and/or ready to throw in the towel. Breathe when that happens. Take deep breaths in and out. In fact, before doing any task associated with the holiday, take 3 deep breaths and see how much more focused and relaxed you are. You might even find it’s a great way to start your day and continue using this method long after the holidays have ended.

Please enjoy a happy, healthy and safe holiday season! ###

 

Speakers Group Member, The Changing Behavior NetworkAlison Kero truly enjoys teaching her easy and effective decluttering system to her clients through her company, ACK Organizing. To reach Alison, go to http://www.ackorganizing.com.

 

December 18, 2016 Posted by | adversity, Anxiety and Depression, Compassion, family, Human Interest, Inspirational, Integrity, Resilience, Special Occasions | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Has Depression Lost Its Meaning? (Dr. Larry F. Waldman)

Special Report, Has "Depression" Lost Its Meaning?Dr. Waldman addresses a significant issue regarding how the word “depression” is often used; his insights and explanations here are absolutely on-target. It is important to note that children generally manifest depression differently than adults. (As one of my college professors once lectured, “Depressed adults VEGETATE; depressed children AGITATE.”) A depressed child is often seen as a behavior problem. Too often, while the behavior is being addressed, intervention for depression is either delayed or not addressed at all. So, whether we’re considering depression as it affects youngsters or adults, it’s a topic needing a LOT more understanding. With our thanks to Dr. Waldman, we present, “Has ‘Depression’ Lost Its Meaning?” –JDS

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Dr. Larry F. Waldman, Has "Depression" Lost Its Meaning?Recently, I overheard an adolescent tell her friend, “I was so depressed yesterday but I’m fine today.” Her friend replied, “Yeah, I understand; I get depressed sometimes, too.”

This conversation reflects the very common misuse of the term “depression.” Most individuals mistakenly refer to depression when, in fact, they are simply sad or unhappy. We all occasionally “get down,” get “bummed out,” or have “the blues,” but these feelings usually last a few hours or a day or two, and the individual can manage their life—eat, sleep, work, socialize, etc.

True Depression is Serious

True depression, sometimes called clinical depression, is far more severe than a few hours or day or so “down in the dumps.” An average episode of clinical depression lasts approximately six to nine months; in some cases it can last a year or more. It is a deep, prevailing sense of sadness and darkness, often accompanied with the thought that, “I will never feel better.”

Truly depressed persons cannot carry on with their lives because they are unable to focus or concentrate, have no energy, cannot sleep or sleep excessively, cannot eat or overeat, and strictly avoid socialization. Depressed persons typically develop low self-esteem and anxiety. It is also common that physical symptoms accompany depression, like head- and/or backaches or GI distress. The term depression has clearly lost its meaning.

Depression at times is brought on by some negative environmental event but just as frequently depression begins with no apparent cause. Individuals with family members whom have struggled with depression, and thus may be genetically predisposed, are more susceptible to this kind of depression with no obvious precipitant. (Psychiatrists refer to this as “endogenous” depression.)

Depression is Dangerous

Depression is dangerous: People with clinical depression lose their ambition, confidence, and their jobs–even their careers. They have great difficulty fulfilling their role as parent and/or spouse and thus those relationships become tenuous. Depressed people may abuse drugs and/or alcohol in an attempt to ameliorate their symptoms. Finally, the prospect of suicide becomes more likely as the depressed patient becomes convinced they are defective and “will never feel normal again.”

Dr. Larry Waldman, Who's Raising Whom?To suggest that one can be depressed yesterday but be fine today, like the two teens referenced above, is ludicrous. This failure to appreciate the true gravity of the word depression is significant, also. Persons with clinical depression don’t get the family or social support they deserve because others think we all “get down” now and then.

Employers will be most considerate if an employee breaks their ankle but will provide relatively little understanding to the employee who requests time off for depression. Until recently, insurance companies covered physical problems much better than mental ones.

Finally, the depressed person may not fully understand their condition, feeling shame and refusing help.

Treatment of Depression

Treatment of depression requires a multi-faceted approach: consider medication; receive psychotherapy; eat right; sleep right; exercise; and socialize. Lying in bed in a dark room, waiting to feel better, will only prolong the depressive episode.

It is important that we cease misusing the word depression and recognize the serious medical/psychological condition it is. ###

 

Speakers Group MemberLarry F. Waldman, Ph.D., ABPP is a licensed psychologist who has practiced in the Paradise Valley area of Phoenix for 38 years. He has worked with children, adolescents, parents, adults, and couples. He also provides forensic consultations. He speaks professionally to laypersons, educators, corporations, and fellow mental health professionals. He teaches graduate courses for Northern Arizona University. He is the author of five books (currently) involving parenting, marriage, personal wellness, and private practice. His contact information is: 602-418-8161; LarryWaldmanPhD@cox.net; TopPhoenixPsychologist.com.

 

October 24, 2016 Posted by | Anxiety and Depression, Compassion, Counselors, Difficult Child, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Stress | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teach Children to Believe in Themselves (Christy Monson)

Christy Monson, Teach Children to Believe in ThemselvesA young girl, Jane, came in for therapy. She felt victimized in the neighborhood and at school. Her dominant father showed her how to fight back physically and berated her because she didn’t engage in conflict. Her mother fretted and worried, but had no solutions. Jane knew what she wanted, but was afraid to share her ideas for fear they were no good. Her self confidence was severely lacking.

The four of us worked together to empower this child using the following ideas. Both parents were willing to listen and learn and change their behavior.

Listen to Your Child: This was an especially difficult task for both parents. The father discounted everything Jane said. Mother interrupted the girl, talking over her and sharing her worry. When the parents began to listen, Jane didn’t know what to say at first.

Ask for the Child’s Opinion: It took some time for this family to open their communication and discuss their issues. But therapy gave them a time of accounting, and they were successful.

Come Up with Solutions Together: The three of them learned to come up with answers together. Although the father found it hard not to impose his ‘law’ in the discussions, he did learn to keep his mouth shut and listen.

Family Talk. Christy MonsonWork Together to Unravel a Problem: Mother had the most difficult time being solution-focused. She was not used to following through to resolve a problem. Over the years she had kept herself in a constant state of drama with her worry, and it was hard for her to let that go.

Discuss Your Success: When this family had a victory in solving a problem, they were able to talk about the things that worked and the things they would do differently next time.

Ask the Child How He or She Feels About the Victory: Both parents were delighted with their victories, and they praised Jane. I suggested that they asked Jane how she felt about her triumph.

Over the months, Jane’s relationship with her family and friends changed. She no longer felt victimized by those around her. Jane shared her ideas when she had play dates. She could lead and follow in the activities. She developed several close friendships in the neighborhood and at school. ###

 

Speakers Group MemberChristy Monson has an M.S. in Counseling Psychology and Marriage & Family Therapy from University of Nevada at Las Vegas, and established a successful counseling practice in Las Vegas, Nevada. Check out her informative website [link].

 

September 27, 2016 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Anxiety and Depression, Compassion, Counselors, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Back to School After Divorce: Tips to Help Your Kids! (Rosalind Sedacca, CDC)

BTSpReportReturning to school after a summer break marked by the divorce of the parents would be a challenge for any youngster. Rosalind Sedacca, founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, offers some great tips to help these kids make the best of the support available at school. We present, “Back to School After Divorce: Tips to Help Your Kids!”

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Back to school after divorce, tips to help your kids, rosalind sedaccaMany divorces take place during the summer. This timing can help families adapt to the changes ahead. But it also makes returning to school a challenge for most children. Fortunately, there are ways to ease the transition by tapping into the many resources available through the school. That’s why it’s wise to develop a cooperative relationship with key school personnel.

Communicate with the School

Start by informing your child’s teachers about the divorce and any changes in your home environment. The more aware they are, the better prepared they can be to help your child. After all, school is often a second home for children – and that may be very comforting during this time of transition.

We can’t expect children to not be affected by the divorce. So expect raw emotions to come to the surface, including fear, shame, guilt and many forms of insecurity. Be aware that these complex feelings are likely to affect a child’s focus and self-esteem, as well as relationships with their friends – not to mention the impact on their academic performance.

Take advantage of the fact that most children trust and feel safe with their teachers. So schedule a conversation with them before the school year starts. Discuss the status of your post-divorce arrangements. Having the teacher as an ally can help your child feel more secure and less alone.

Child-Centered Divorce Network, Rosalind SedaccaUtilize the School’s Resources

The following suggestions can guide parents in using school system resources to your child’s advantage:

Teachers can look for signs of distress or depression in your child. Being compassionate by nature, teachers can talk with your child about their feelings. They can let your child know they are not the blame. Nor are they the only kids at school going through these difficulties. Messages like this can reinforce prior conversations you’ve already had with your child. It also reassures them to know that the divorce is not a big dark secret. It can be discussed candidly without shame.

Talk with your child’s guidance counselor. These professionals are a valuable resource; they are trained to handle challenging circumstances. They can be an ally to you and your children, and they can be counted on for support and guidance.

Look at these educators as members of your child’s support team. They have the background to detect signs of depression, aggression or other behavior changes that need to be addressed with you as soon as possible. So ask them to be attentive toward your child.

Be sure to take advantage of divorce support groups at school. These groups are designed to encourage children to talk with one another, sharing their feelings during or after the divorce. It’s helpful to know they’re not alone, that they’re accepted, and that others are facing or have experienced similar life-altering circumstances. That awareness gives children a sense of belonging. Many children make new friends with others who are sharing their experiences. The less alone a child feels, the easier it is to accept the challenges they will be facing in the weeks and months to come.

Of course, schools cannot replace parental responsibilities. It’s essential to talk to your child before they return to school. Prepare them for changes in routine or scheduling they might encounter. Inform them about those they can talk to at school if they are feeling sad or have questions about adjusting to new situations.

Let school be your child’s best friend at this time. It can be a great support system for your family if you take advantage of the experience and useful resources available. ###

Speakers Group MemberRosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! For Rosalind’s free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting, coaching services, articles and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, go to: www.childcentereddivorce.com.

 

September 1, 2016 Posted by | adversity, Affirmation and Recognition, Anxiety and Depression, Compassion, Counselors, Divorce Issues, family, Healthy living, Parents, Resilience, Stress | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit of Forgiveness (Dr. James Sutton)

Dr. James SuttonAnger is the proverbial two-edged sword. When we are emotionally vulnerable, one edge stands ready to protect us from additional hurt and harm, but the other edge can rob us of our joy and, over time, steal our health and vitality as well. The Spirit of Forgiveness offers us one way to deal with long-term anger.

Like a Suit of Armor

Like a knight’s suite of armor, anger does a good job of protecting us from additional hurt. It covers our delicate emotional flesh, but, if worn too long, the armor itself can hurt us. If we choose never to remove the armor, others will see us as strange and even difficult. And when the summer sun does its number on the armor, we will have a new problem: heat stroke.

suit of armor, Kroejsanka Mediteranka, the spirit of forgivenessAt some point, the armor needs to come off, right?

Forgiveness, A Delicate Issue

Authentic forgiveness requires a vulnerability, an emotional risk … without armor. One of the things that makes forgiveness difficult is the fact that, in order to truly forgive, one must make contact with what they are forgiving. That can be difficult, often causing forgiveness to stop before it even begins.

(This is precisely who insisting a child, teen or adult forgive someone is so ineffective, even harmful. We cannot mandate matters of the heart, especially when the heart is packed in armor!)

Waiting to Forgive

Even when one is willing to forgive, what happens if it is never sought? Is one stuck at that point, just waiting to forgive? What happens if they can’t or won’t wait?

For ten years I was the consulting psychologist for a residential treatment facility for children and teens. They had been removed from their homes because of ongoing abuse and the emotional damage it created. These kids inspired me in their growth and in their willingness, over time, to step out of their armor. In the process, however, some of them attempted to forgive family members when that forgiveness had not been sought. For the most part, the results were quite predictable: Disaster.

The Spirit of Forgiveness

There is a way to help a youngster or an adult to get to the point of forgiveness even if it is never sought. I call it The Spirit of Forgiveness. It involves a “What if …” that can lead very closely to the same sort healing if a person is ready for it.

The Spirit of Forgiveness starts with a question:

You are right; it seems very unlikely that person will ever seek your forgiveness. But what if they DID ask you to forgive them, and you were absolutely convinced they were 100% sincere is doing so. Would you consider forgiving them then?

 

The Changing Behavior Book, James SuttonAlmost to the youngster, the kids I worked with in treatment initially would respond with something like, “I wouldn’t believe them!” “That would never happen!” or “They would never ask that!” At that point, my aim would be to coax them toward a “Yes” or “No.”

I understand. But what if someone you trust a lot, someone like your grandmother, were to tell you they were sincere in seeking your forgiveness, what would you do?

 

If the youngster elected to stay with their previous response or say they would NOT forgive that person, I would stop right there. They were not ready; they still needed their armor. They were neither right nor wrong; they just were not ready.

If, on the other hand, they were to say they would forgive that person under those circumstances, I would explain to them how very, very close that is to actual face-to-face forgiveness. The results often would be obvious in their eating and sleeping habits, behavior, relationships and school performance. I was privileged to observe youngsters use The Spirit of Forgiveness, a predetermined answer to a question that might never be asked, to make significant progress in their recovery.

Acceptance: An Alternative

I have communicated with adults that felt even The Spirit of Forgiveness was too difficult for them to conceptualize in terms of their own experiences. In one way or another they all shared that they moved past the pain and hurt by reaching a point of acceptance and moving on from there.###

Dr. James Sutton is a former teacher, a child and adolescent psychologist and the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. His website is DocSpeak.com

 

July 22, 2016 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Compassion, Counselors, courage, family, Healthy living, Integrity, Parents, Resilience, Self-esteem | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Be Patient with Me …” (Dr. James Sutton)

Dr. James Sutton“Be Patient with Me …” Growing tomatoes in south Texas can be a challenge. You have to get most of your harvest in the spring, as the blistering sun will cut them down in July.

“This one’s finished,” I said to myself, as I prepared to yank a plant up by the roots and throw it into the compost pile.

It was then my fingers, not my eyes, discovered it: a perfectly formed, fist-sized tomato. Fastened near the bottom of the plant, it was green and growing, resting against the picket fence where it had been shielded from my view.

Be Patient with Me“Be patient with me; I can still contribute,” the plant seemed to be saying to me. I left it.

In that moment I was struck with the notion that people sometimes are like that heat-battered tomato plant. It could be the student who is painfully shy in the classroom. It could be the hard-working immigrant who struggles to learn a strange, new language. Or it could be the kind soul who must live out her days in a nursing home. Circumstances differ, yet the message remains the same:

Be patient with me;
I can STILL contribute.

Only the Master Gardener has all the answers.

“… For man looketh on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looketh on the heart.”
I Samuel 16:7b (KJV)

 

The Changing Behavior Book, Dr. James SuttonDr. James D. Sutton is a (mostly) retired child and adolescent psychologist. His most recent book is The Changing Behavior Book, and he is the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network. [website]

 

 

June 10, 2016 Posted by | adversity, Compassion, courage, Educators, family, Healthy living, Human Interest, Inspirational, Parents, Resilience | , , , , | 1 Comment