60-Second Time Out

Insights for Family Health

Fueling the Anger

Jenny watched in shock as her normally mild-mannered son slammed the book shut and flung his pencil across the desk.

“I can’t do this stupid stuff, and I’m not going to try,” he spat. Anger dripped from every word.

“What’s the matter with you?” Jenny asked. I’ve never seen you act like this before.”

Immediately, he began crying. Once he calmed down, Jenny discovered that her son hadn’t suddenly turned into a horrible child. Instead, his anger was fueled by his fear of attending a new school where a bully made life miserable.

A wise parent will realize that anger is often an indicator of a deeper problem. Sometimes children are upset, and anger is the only way they can express their emotions. Look for contributing factors that might be fanning the flames. Here are some possibilities to consider:

  • Excessive tiredness might be a contributing factor. Even adults become ill-natured and snap easily when they don’t get enough sleep. Would it help to adjust your child’s bedtime?
  • Stress can be an underlying problem that contributes to anger. Different things stress each child. Is your son (or daughter) having problems at school? Are other children bullying him? Are schedules too packed?
  • Fear can definitely be a contributing cause. Have you moved recently? Is your child worried about starting a new activity? Have you changed babysitters?
  • Tensions or problems in the home environment can often lead to anger. Has a loved one been seriously ill? Has there been a death in the family? Is there family discord?

Of course, a child needs to learn creative ways to express his emotions and use anger management techniques. A wise parent will keep communication open and look below the surface to see what’s causing the anger in the first place.Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 12.39.23 PM

—BHS blog contributor MICHELLE COX is a speaker and author and the creator/developer of the Just 18 Summers® brand. She is a twice a week columnist on Guideposts.org. She’s written for groups like FoxNews.com, WHOA Magazine for Women, and Focus on the Family. Her Just 18 Summers novel (co-authored with Rene Gutteridge) released from Tyndale and is available now.Visit her at www.michellecoxinspirations.com and on her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MichelleCoxInspirations.

Do not reprint without author’s permission.

The Blame Game

One of the physicians I work with stopped me to share a story. He said, “James, years ago I went to a conference and heard a physician who specialized in child mental health discuss what he considered to be the primary issue with children who have behavioral issues.”

“The problem, he said, was primarily the result of the parenting, and that the children were more believable than the parents. This physician went on to say, most people believe that it is the child’s fault for the behavior. He is the only one I have ever heard make that statement and was bold in his belief. I tend to agree with him.”

I am still not sure why he felt the need to share this opinion with me. However, it did cause me to reflect on my years of working with children and their parents and gave me some introspection on my own views.

Presently, I cannot definitively say whether the blame for poor behavior lies with children or the parents who have taught them and modeled behavior for them. I tend to believe that as a child grows, his or her level of responsibility correlates positively to his or her age or development. That is, as you grow, you make your own choices and should take responsibility for them. No one can assume responsibility for your behavior. 

On the other hand, in the counseling profession we come into contact with so many children who never had a chance at positive behavior. From birth, they have faced challenges that include financial hardships, parents with addictions, and family members who take advantage of them at every opportunity to satisfy their own lusts and craven desires. They have been living in survival mode nearly every day of their young lives. For those children it is easy to adopt the perspective, “It is not your fault, someone made you this way.”

However, as much as I can sympathize with their difficulties I have to ask myself this question: “At what point do we encourage that child to move past their experience and behave in such a way that will allow them to participate in their own future, not continuing as a victim of someone else’s choices”?

What are your thoughts?
 Do not reprint without author’s permission.

Can Teens Chill Without a Pill?

Anxiety is normal in teens. Always has been, and always will be. Their bodies are changing, their minds are expanding, and their worlds are exploding. Social pressures to conform to nebulous and often illogical social standards can be confusing, frustrating, and can produce both generalized and social anxiety. But what happens when that anxiety takes over and makes normal life unbearable or even impossible?

Most health professionals would immediately prescribe a pill to solve the problem. The NIH reports that at least eleven percent of children twelve and older report taking antidepressants. In fact, antidepressants were the second most prescribed drug in America; just after cholesterol lowering medications.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that one out of every eight children suffer from anxiety disorder. Many of them are taking “benzos,” a class of drug that slows down the central nervous system. The problem is they are highly addictive and carry side effects like headaches, confusion, and nightmares. Is there a safer and more natural way to treat anxiety in teens?

The real culprit is stress on the body stemming from harmful changes in the American diet over the last two generations. Your body perceives danger when it ingests harmful substances like genetically modified foods, artificial dyes, and flavors, or pesticides on grains and produce. The perception of danger activates the stress response.

When activated, the stress response system pumps adrenaline into the body causing cold sweats, heart palpitations, excessive energy, hyper-focus, and even high blood pressure. This is the essence of anxiety or a panic attack. When the stress response system is overstimulated, the brain becomes stuck in a repetitive loop of anxiety.

The goal for teens is to explore the possibility that their anxiety may be more than just a function of a faulty brain. It may very well be their body’s response to harmful substances entering their bodies.

This is in no way meant to minimize the experiences of those who have been through trauma or abuse, but it is meant to give hope that by addressing anxiety from every possible angle—nutrition and lifestyle, counseling and of course, under a doctor’s advisement—they can find some relief and balance.

Dr-Pete—BHS blog contributor, DR. PETE SULACK studies on the effects of stress, coupled with testimonials from patients and attention in medical communities have garnered him the title of “America’s Leading Stress Expert.”  He is a highly sought-after teacher, lecturer, and author.

 

Take Dr. Pete’s Stress Test by clicking here. 

Do not reprint without author’s permission.

Love Thy Sibling

With a big grin, my 12-year-old, Jeremy, leaned over and whispered, “Mom, are you listening to them argue in the back seat?”

I had zoned out while driving the boys to school and Jeremy’s question drew my attention to his 8-year-old and 4-year-old brothers as they argued about who had the biggest nose holes.

“Mine are the biggest.”

“No, mine are.”

“They are not. They aren’t nearly as big as mine.”

“Well, Mama’s nose holes are much bigger than yours.”

I couldn’t help but laugh.

I’ll have to admit my sons were quite creative about finding topics for their arguments. I remember the time they were almost to blows as they squabbled about who was going to sleep in the top bunk bed. Now, just so you understand this scenario—we didn’t own bunk beds. We weren’t planning to buy bunk beds. However, in case we ever did buy bunk beds, they ironed out all the details.

While these instances were comical, sibling rivalry can lead to real anger. Brothers and sisters have the unique ability of knowing exactly which button to push to make their sibling mad.

Along the parenting journey, my husband and I learned some tips that helped to alleviate sibling warfare around our house and I think they’ll be helpful to you as well.

  • Don’t play favorites.
  • Don’t let things get out of hand. While some fussing is natural, brothers and sisters should be respectful of their siblings and learn to consider their feelings.
  • Insist on an apology when appropriate. Make sure the apology is sincere then have them give their sibling a hug. They’ll hate the hug part but they’ll get the point.
  • Let siblings work situations out among themselves whenever possible. For instance, our sons used to argue about who had the biggest piece of dessert. The bickering ended when we allowed one child to cut the dessert—with the knowledge that his brothers would have first choice. Talk about perfect slices!

Children who learn to cope with sibling rivalry will have valuable skills that will be of benefit for the rest of their lives.

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 12.39.23 PM

—BHS blog contributor MICHELLE COX is a speaker and author and the creator/developer of the Just 18 Summers® brand. She is a twice a week columnist on Guideposts.org. She’s written for groups like FoxNews.com, WHOA Magazine for Women, and Focus on the Family. Her Just 18 Summers novel (co-authored with Rene Gutteridge) released from Tyndale and is available now.Visit her at www.michellecoxinspirations.com and on her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MichelleCoxInspirations.

Do not reprint without author’s permission.

Stress Less = Family Vacation Success

If you traveled a lot before you had children, you will have to adjust your expectations— especially in regards to the time it takes to do anything. Children (even teens) like to explore, they have to go to the bathroom a lot, and eat a lot, and trying to hurry them only makes the situation worse.

Here are some tips from the expert at Rough Guides on traveling with the kids:

  • Take your time
  • Book ahead—don’t try to be spontaneous when kids are involved.
  • Expect regression and conflicts (potty accidents, temper tantrums, sibling arguments, etc.)
  • For the kids who do not have a camera, buy a disposable camera to capture the trip from their level.
  • Invest in a child locator to ease your mind and avoid losing an active child.
  • For older children, pack a homemade or purchased travel journal and encourage them to record their experiences.
  • When traveling through busy airports, write your mobile number on the inside of your child’s arm with a Sharpie.
  • Even if you don’t have a baby any longer, take some baby wipes along wherever you go to use for face cleanup, table wipe down, toilet seat sanitizer, shoe shiner, and a million other uses.
  • If you only have younger kids, take an Au Pair or your favorite teenager to keep the kids entertained. Older nieces and nephews may be willing to babysit for the price of the trip.
  • Keep activities realistic and age-appropriate.
  • Know the signs of “hangry” (so hungry they’re angry). Keep protein bars and healthy snacks (not sugary) at the ready in your bag during the entire trip.
  • Avoid over-stimulation. Kids don’t have the ability to decompress themselves. You have to build in quiet time and rest time for them to do this.
  • Keep the tablet at home. Resist the temptation to let junior “zone out” with your phone or tablet. Studies show that children under the age of 12 who use electronic devices for even one hour per day show cognitive delays, a tendency towards attention deficit disorder and mental illness, aggression, and decreased memory and concentration due to the brain pruning neuronal tracks to the frontal lobe which controls all executive function.

Structured vs. Unstructured

  • Some relaxing time is fun, and some unstructured time is beneficial; but too much free time can be stressful because family members used to school and work schedules suddenly find themselves with no scheduled meals, sleep, or chores.
  • Make sure you have something scheduled for each day—even if it is “explore the other side of the campground,” or “teach kids how to make a fire without matches.” Something for everyone to look forward to and feel accomplished about completing.

Relaxing vs. Exploring

  • Don’t assume that your mate wants the same things out of the vacation that you do. You may want to lie around and catch up on naps and reading that you never get a chance to do, while your mate has been stuck in the house or an office cubicle and may want to hike, roam, explore, and discover.
  • Be clear with each other about what your expectations are, then make a plan so everyone gets what they want. This will decrease tension and stress.

Time with kids vs. Time with adults

  • Decide how much time you want to spend doing kid friendly stuff, and how much time you want doing adult stuff.
  • If you work outside the home, you may be looking forward to spending quality time reconnecting with your kids. If your mate spends a lot of time every day with the kids, he/she may want some time to dress up and go out for GT (grownup time).
  • Most resorts have bonded, licensed babysitters or nannies that can come in for a few hours if you want to have some time out at night. One night out alone may sustain you for the rest of the vacation!

Take a day to reboot

  • Consider taking an extra day off of work at the end of your vacation to reboot.
  • You will need to do laundry, put away the luggage, pick up your mail, pets, etc. So leave an extra day to unwind.
  • You will be more productive at work if you have your home life back in order.
  • By reconnecting with every member of the family back at home, you can carry the sweet memories and funny stories of your vacation together into the normal, daily walk of life.
  • Have a meal together at home and go around the table asking each one to share his/her favorite memory of the trip.
  • Have your kids begin to plan your next adventure based on what they liked or didn’t like about this adventure.
  • Debrief with your mate about what went right, what went wrong, and how to make the next trip even better than this one!

Anticipation is half the fun!

Dr-Pete—BHS blog contributor, DR. PETE SULACK studies on the effects of stress, coupled with testimonials from patients and attention in medical communities have garnered him the title of “America’s Leading Stress Expert.”  He is a highly sought-after teacher, lecturer, and author.

Take Dr. Pete’s Stress Test by clicking here. 

A Heart for Homes

1513827_900001086754541_1725414506957164639_n-1The picture angle is poor, but these are my old carpentry bags. When I bought these roughly ten years ago, I told myself that I would retire from framing when they wore out. Sadly, they have outlived my career as a carpenter. At the time, I had 14 full-time employees and loved every day of building homes. Quite honestly, it was all I wanted to do with my life at the time.

The housing crisis began to impact business in 2008, and production started to slow. I allowed empty positions to stay empty until I was down to just a handful of guys.

When it became apparent that home sales would not support the volume of work I needed for the family, I dusted off my degree. I found a job working as a therapist providing in-home counseling for families involved in Children’s Division. I also continued to teach at the community college but moved from teaching construction related classes to courses in psychology and human development.

I enjoyed teaching but lacked the enthusiasm that I found in building homes.
Over the years, I have moved from practicing therapy in general to working more specifically with children and adolescents. Currently, the majority of my practice occurs in an acute inpatient hospital where children and adolescents receive intensive care for issues such as self-mutilation, suicide attempts and a variety of other problems. The environment can be intense at times, but is the only thing I have found that comes close to the level of satisfaction I experienced wearing those old carpenter’s bags.

I’m drawn to the sense of purpose as I invest in lives with so much potential, yet so many challenges. I also see in many of those young lives parallels to my life as a teenager. Angst, tumult, anger, self-destruction, hurt.

As I assemble my tools and fit everything back into their respective places in those old pouches, I felt a bit of nostalgia. It seems like a lifetime ago that I daily put on those bags and worked so diligently with the talent God has given me. They represent a younger, stronger, more self-determined me. I remember the changes that occurred personally during those years. The lessons I learned about efficiency, excellence, honesty, and the men I had the privilege of working alongside will never be forgotten. To some extent, swinging a hammer for those many years has helped to forge the man I am today.

I remember the goodness of God and His never-ending grace upon my life.

As I reflect on the years that have passed since last carrying those bags, I am reminded of Philippians 1:6 that reads, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

It’s easy to see the changes and the progress that this promise has accomplished in my life. Looking forward, it calms the anxieties I often feel not knowing exactly where this journey of faith and life is leading. I am, however, persuaded of His faithfulness to lead.

 Do not reprint without author’s permission.

My Stepchild Hates Me! What to do When You Don’t Know What to Do

Recently, during a life coaching session a stepmom shared, “I’m at a loss over what to do with my eight-year-old stepdaughter. She has made it clear that she wants nothing to do with me. She believes that I’m the reason her mom and dad aren’t together,” she continued. “That’s not true.”

“I’ve tried praying, helping with homework, buying clothes, and making favorite meals. Nothing works. I cry constantly and I feel like I’m failing her, my husband and God. What am I going to do?”

My heart aches for this sensitive stepmom. She’s desperate. The problem is, she didn’t cause the wound to this little girl’s heart, and she can’t fix it. She doesn’t hold the key to unlock this child’s trauma.

Is her situation helpless and hopeless? No. There are smart steps to take, but they may be very different than the tactics she has tried. Unfortunately, the church rarely offers programs for the unique issues associated with stepfamilies. Here is what I suggest:

Become Educated

The first step is for her and her husband to become educated about children and divorce. It may be hard to hear. Kids and divorce is a painful subject. A favorite resource is a film created by interviewing children. It is so powerful I use it at my stepmom retreats. http://splitfilm.org/

Volunteer at a Support Group Designed for Kids

A group that helps kids of divorce will allow the stepmom to receive hands on insight. She can observe and learn from children that are not emotionally attached to her situation. I suggest www.DC4K.org

It’s Not About You

One of the hardest parts of being a stepmom is learning when you are part of the problem, and when it has nothing to do with you at all. This stepmom could be the Mother Teresa of stepmoms and the child may still reject her. It has nothing to do with her personally; it’s about the child’s pain.

Debunk the Lie

For years society has tried to tell us that kids don’t suffer when a parent divorces. The truth is many children, me included, suffer the effects of a parent’s divorce well into adulthood. Two resources which give excellent insight are:

  • Elizabeth Marquardt, Between Two Worlds—The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce
  • Judith Wallerstein, Lewis and Blakslee, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce-a 25 year Study

Find Support

For a stepmom in this situation, support is the key. She will continuously feel isolated and like a failure until she gets around some other stepmoms who understand. She may need to be the one to launch the group. I have a downloadable booklet with instructions on my website www.TheSmartStepmom.com .

Involve Dad

Dad holds the keys to solving this issue. Daddy-daughter date nights are crucial. This private time with his daughter, acknowledging that he understands the divorce and so many changes have been hard on her, can have a huge impact.

He must clearly and confidently explain, with facts if possible, that the stepmom had nothing to do with the divorce. And that cruelty towards the stepmom, his wife, will not be tolerated.

I advise dad to say these words, “You are my child. I love you, and I will always be here for you. That hasn’t changed because I got remarried. I stood before God and promised to cherish my wife. I must keep that commitment. You don’t have to like her, you don’t have to love her, but in my home you must respect her.”

A stepmom may not reap the rewards of her tenacity and tenderness for a long, long time. Learning how to pray for a stepchild and becoming educated about the child’s pain is the goal. Each step will empower a stepmom to take her eyes off the circumstances, and shift them toward Christ and practical solutions. This does not mean ignoring a child’s rudeness, but rather learning how to work alongside her husband to change the situation.

A smart stepmom learns what she can control, and sets boundaries and/or lets go of what she cannot.

What is one act of kindness I can do to show my stepchild that I understand his/her pain?

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Gal 6:9 NIV

cover 101TipsSmartStepmomCopyright © 2015 Laura Petherbridge. All rights reserved.

10371500_10204163308106111_4102232549483289191_nThe Source BHS contributor Laura Petherbridge is an international author and speaker who serves couples and single adults with topics on stepfamilies, relationships, divorce prevention, and divorce recovery. She is the author of When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t”—Practical Steps for Healing During Separation and Divorce, The Smart Stepmom, co-authored with Ron 
Deal, 101 Tips for the Smart Stepmom and Quiet Moments for the Stepmom Soul. Her website is www.TheSmartStepmom.com

“I am alone.”

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—James Skinner

Kids need someone to talk to who they know won’t be angry with them, at the same time they need someone who notices, who sees their hurt and cares enough to respond—they need to know that they are not alone in the fight. This is the heart of why I focus on adolescent and family therapy.

In 2008, I opened a practice in Lebanon, Missouri. Over the years, I have moved from practicing therapy in general to working more specifically with children and adolescents. I am a Level I Attachment Based Intervention Specialist with the American Association of Christian Counselors and have worked in outpatient private practice since 2008 and inpatient acute care since, 2012. I currently hold a dual licensure as a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner and Licensed Professional Counselor.

Currently, the majority of my practice occurs in an acute inpatient hospital where children and adolescents receive intensive care for issues such as self-mutilation, suicide attempts and a variety of other issues.

My approach towards counseling is to not only to help the child but to restore the health of a home—the health of a family. I tell my patients who have attempted suicide that should be just One Moment. It takes a family committed to moving in the same direction take all the steps needed to make sure that child that One Moment does not exist again.

James is passionate about equipping parents and caregivers of children and adolescents with practical insights on mental health issues. Check out the BHS blog, 60-Second Time Out—Insights for Family Health by clicking here.

Stress Less = Family Vacation Success

If you traveled a lot before you had children, you will have to adjust your expectations— especially in regards to the …

Fueling the Anger

Jenny watched in shock as her normally mild-mannered son slammed the book shut and flung his pencil across the desk. “I …

A Heart for Homes

The picture angle is poor, but these are my old carpentry bags. When I bought these roughly ten years ago, I told myself …