Category Archives: Anxiety and Depression

From Incorrigible to Incredible: What Toby Taught Us, Part 1 (Guest: Charmaine Hammond)

Radio-style Interview, The Changing Behavior NetworkAnimals sometimes can teach us much about acceptance, compassion and healing. Toby did just that, as shared here by his owner, author Charmaine Hammond.
This interview comes from the very early archives of The Changing Behavior Network. This is part one of a two-part program.

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From Incorrigible to Incrtedible: What Toby Taught Us, Charmaine HammondWhen Charmaine Hammond and her husband, Chris, adopted a five-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever named Toby, little did they know what the next few years held in store.

Therapy Dog

Charmaine and Chris were tempted to give up on the big dog, but they didn’t. In return, Toby became an award-winning pet-assisted therapy dog and, in his brief lifetime, achieved Chicken Soup fame and left an indelible paw print in the hearts of all those he touched.

This is a story of love, patience, dedication and faithfulness. It shows us, once again, what can be accomplished when we accept others unconditionally.

Charmaine Hammond

Charmaine is a professional speaker and seminar leader from theOn Toby's Terms, Charmaine Hammond Edmonton area of Alberta. She travels the US and Canada speaking on topics of communication and team building to corporate audiences. But Charmaine continues to promote the values of kindness and caring to Toby’s favorite audience: school children. (15:32)

For more information about A Million Acts of Kindness: Toby’s Global Mission, the movie currently being made on Toby’s life and story, Charmaine’s work as a speaker/trainer, or her heartwarming bestseller, On Toby’s Terms, go to this website:

www.OnTobysTerms.com

 

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Eating and Self-Injury Disorders: Finding the Door to Recovery (Guest: Melissa Groman, LCSW)

BTRadioIntDisorders of eating can affect both young and old. Their self-abusive characteristics are difficult to understand and, at times, can be even more difficult to manage and treat effectively. Melissa Growman, LCSW, shares valuable insights in this interview from some of our most popular programs in the archives. –JDS 

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Eating and Self-injury Disorders: Finding the Door to Recovery, Melissa Groman

Beliefs, and the thoughts they bring on, can either guide a person’s life and keep it on course, or they can erupt into feelings that torment an individual without mercy. When that happens, any behavior that covers and soothes emotional pain and anguish is an option.

Difficult to Address

According to our guest on this program, eating and self-injury disorders are difficult to address because they serve their purpose, at least in the short-term. Like other behaviors that can become addictive, bingeing and starving, or the compulsive cutting of one’s own flesh, provide welcomed distraction and relief from much deeper pain.

These behaviors can become a cycle of self-abuse that occurs in more adolescent girls and young women than you might think. Ultimately, the cycle becomes a trap.

Is there hope for change?

Ambivalence is an Issue

Better is Not So Far Away, Melissa GromanOur guest on this program, Melissa Groman, psychotherapist and specialist in eating and self-injury disorders, suggests that, although recovery from these disorders is possible, ambivalence toward recovery can be a major obstacle. In this program, Melissa will share with us why this is so, what it takes for recovery to become a reality, and what caring parents, other relatives and friends can do to help.

Melissa Growman, LCSW

Melissa’s trademark warmth, sensitivity and profound understanding of human nature permeate her work. She has more than 25 years of experience helping people live healthy, satisfying lives. Although she maintains a busy private practice, Melissa writes regularly for a number of magazines, websites and blogs. This program features her book, Better is Not So Far Away: Decide to Recover from Bingeing, Starving or Cutting. (27:43)

www.melissagroman.com

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Better Living Through Chemistry? (Dr. Larry F. Waldman)

Our children are watching us, always. With little effort or fanfare, they typically adopt our characteristics, mannerisms, behaviors and beliefs. This can be a good thing, or, as psychologist Dr. Larry Waldman cautions, it can be a path to trouble. A collective desire to always “feel good” seriously can harm us and our most precious relationships. We present, “Better Living Through Chemistry?” –JDS

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Better Living Through Chemistry?, Dr. Larry WaldmanAll living things, human and animal, strive for homeostasis, the ability to keep things in balance. For instance, when they are hungry, they eat; when thirsty, they drink; when sleepy, they nap. Humans, though, take this one step further. Not only do we want our biological processes balanced, we want to feel good. (We feel good when the pleasure center in our brain is stimulated.) Things like alcohol, drugs, fatty and greasy foods, jewelry, fancy cars, expensive clothes, sex and intense video gaming have little to do with balance but everything to do with seeking pleasure. It’s a feeling good movement of epidemic proportion.

To a very large degree, our health care system operates in similar fashion. If the patient doesn’t feel well, a pill is prescribed with the hope they will feel better in the morning.

Dangerous lifestyles

Unquestionably, the number one killer of adults in the United States is lifestyle: bad diet, overeating, lack of exercise, drinking and drugging, and smoking. All these habits are aimed at, that’s right, “feeling good.” Approximately 50% of US adults today are overweight, and, accordingly, there is an epidemic of diabetes and hypertension. How much will the next generation of adult men weigh when most of them spent their entire adolescence seated staring at a video screen? Interestingly, the recreational use of marijuana for purposes of inducing pleasure, has been legalized in several states; it stimulates binge eating.

The response to this situation has been bariatric procedures and, yes, more pills. I distinctly remember a fertilizer/chemical company in the 60s named Monsanto. Their business motto was, “Better Living Through Chemistry.”

We had no idea how true that would become.

The Primary Treatment

The primary treatment today for depression and anxiety, the two most common mental health issues, is, again, medication. Antidepressants certainly have a role in the treatment of these major maladies, but pills should not be the only intervention, but that’s often the case. Changing behavior and thoughts have been shown to be quite helpful in managing depression and anxiety, but they rarely are used.

Recently a friend of mine noted he was depressed and his doctor (a general practitioner) had prescribed him Zoloft, a common antidepressant, several weeks ago. He was not yet feeling well.

I asked him, “What is the number one thing you would like to have happen that would might make you feel better?” He answered he would like to be in a relationship. When I next asked him, “What have you done to find a relationship?” he admitted he had done nothing. (I was unaware that Zoloft can bring you a girlfriend.)

Who's Raising Whom, Dr. Larry WaldmanWe discussed ways to increase his odds of finding a partner. A few weeks later, he reported he was feeling better. He had met a woman and they were about to have their third date.

Was it the Zoloft or the behavior? I don’t know for a fact, but my vote is for the changed behavior.

As a long-term behavioral psychologist, I am fond of the statement, “It is easier to behave your way into a new feeling than to feel your way into a new behavior.” I submit lots of people today are taking pills and/or drugs simply hoping to feel better.

A Better Way

Suggestion: The next time you wish to feel better, don’t pop a pill, down a beer, or smoke a joint. Instead, tell your significant other you love them; read a story, take a walk, have a bike ride with your child; stroke your pet; call your parent and tell them you were thinking of them; go to the gym; write a letter of gratitude to someone who has been kind or helpful to you; meditate; do a yoga practice; do some rhythmic breathing. All of these examples, and there are many more, are healthy, natural behaviors that can effectively change our feeling state.

“Better Living Through Chemistry” has led us down a dark and dangerous path. It is time to take a new direction.###

 

Larry 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.

 

Evaluating a Youngster’s Self-Esteem: Five Questions (Dr. James Sutton)

Special Report, The Changing Behavior NetworkIssues and concerns related to self-esteem can create significant difficulty for a youngster’s overall development and progress. Answers to these five questions will give you a pretty good idea of where a particular child or teen might be in terms of self-esteem. These are taken from one of Dr. Sutton’s latest, downloadable e-books, Improving a Youngster’s Self-Esteem (revised). The book obviously contains more information regarding followup, intervention and treatment. CLICK HERE to learn more about the book. We now present, “Evaluating a Youngster’s Self-Esteem: Five Questions.”

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Dr. James Sutton, Evaluating a Youngster's Self-Esteem: Five QuestionsThere are five questions that pertain to the evaluation of a child or teen’s self-esteem. It is probable that a child with low self-esteem will have difficulty in several of these. Answers to these questions and observations can be helpful in determining management and treatment.

Question 1 of 5:

HOW DO YOU BELIEVE SHE (OR HE) VIEWS HER OWN IMAGE AND ABILITIES?

It’s not unusual for youngsters to have issues with their physical appearance; our bodies stay with us for life. The body is an individual’s direct connection with the outside world, and the only part of a person that others can see, hear, and touch.

Is she confident regarding her physical appearance? If she is not comfortable, is the problem an authentic one, perhaps even one that could be repaired (like crooked teeth)? Or is her issue with her appearance primarily in her own perception only, such as an attractive child believing somehow that she is ugly?

Does she put herself down when it comes to appearance and physical characteristics? What is the nature of her complaints and concerns?

Does she feel up to the challenge of comparing herself and her abilities with age and grade peers?

Sports is another area which showcases a youngster’s abilities, or lack of them. How is she in this area? Competitive sports like soccer and Little League come into a child’s life early on and continue through school and non-school functions and events for years. For some youngsters, the pressure to perform is anything but fun.

Question 2 of 5:

HOW WELL DOES HE HANDLE FRUSTRATION?

Can he handle quite a bit before he “loses it?” Can he creatively use setbacks as challenges to try even harder, or is he overly reactive to aggravation and setbacks?

It’s easy to see how the behavior of an angry youngster can bring about consequences that only create more frustration when the consequences are applied. The frustrated child finds himself in a hole that moves only in one direction deeper, then deeper still.

If self-esteem is a container from which we manage our stress, then some folks carry buckets while others have thimbles. You can size them up easily during moments of frustration. Said another way, a low tolerance for frustration is almost always a tip-off to low self-esteem.

Question 3 of 5:

HOW DOES SHE HANDLE CRITICISM, EVEN CONSTRUCTIVE, WELL-INTENDED CRITICISM?

Does she accept criticism graciously and use it as a springboard for improvement, or does just about ANY criticism bring about a response like, “How come you’re always picking on ME?”

Some youngsters feel they have long since met their quota of mistakes for the rest of their lives! So, when one more is held up in front of them, they’re not exactly happy about it.

Sometimes there is an opposite effect. This is the youngster who had difficulty accepting compliments. This situation is actually part of the same concern.

We all have an image of ourselves as a total person. If that image is a poor one, compliments will be in conflict with it. In other words, the compliment can’t find a place to “fit.” Consequently, the youngster might reject a compliment in order to maintain consistency of a poor self-image and of low self-esteem. One might say that this is self-defeating and that it doesn’t make much sense at all, but it is consistent.

Improving a Youngster's Self-Esteem, Dr. James SuttonQuestion 4 of 5:

IS HE WILLING TO TAKE APPROPRIATE RISKS?

Life involves risk. The very hope of progress, just about any kind of progress, demands that we take risks; not fool-hearty risks, of course, but age and situation-appropriate risks.

Examples of risks include sports and other areas of competition, the sort of classes a high school student signs up for or seeking that first after-school job. Then there’s the big one for a guy asking a girl out for a date. Life requires risk all the time.

The bottom line of risk-taking is always the same: fear of failure. If that fear is strong enough, one will not risk. But there’s a paradoxical quality to it. Since one cannot experience success UNLESS he takes a risk, a paralyzing fear of ultimately creates more failure.

We might consider here a pattern of an opposite effect: fear of success. The whole notion of success doesn’t fit well with a poor self-image or a low self-esteem. Many youngsters will strive for a consistency of a poor self-image rather than a successful life-style. That seems to run contrary to the laws of personhood, but in more than three decades of working with young people, I have seen it happen over and over again.

Question 5 of 5:

HOW DOES SHE HANDLE RELATIONSHIPS, BOTH WITH PEERS AND WITH ADULTS?

Does she seem to have a number of meaningful friendships that have lasted, friendships into which she is invested? Does she speak easily and comfortably with adults?

At the other extreme we find youngsters who seem socially isolated and withdrawn. They might possibly say things like, “No one likes me!” They might even make friends easily, but have difficulty keeping them.

This youngster might either be uncomfortable with adults or spend all of their time with just one friend or one adult, like a favorite teacher. This might appear to be a very positive relationship, but the deeper message could be avoidance of other relationships. This can become a real problem, especially if that one intense relationship falls apart. And generally, if the relationship is one-sided in its intensity, it will eventually fall apart.

There are underlying issues in such an unfortunate scenario, such as two kinds of fear: the fear of closeness and fear of being socially “exposed” For an adolescent, a stage of growth where peers are such an important part of psychosocial development, just the thought of being “exposed” is quite disturbing. This youngster can be terrified that, if others get too close, they might not like what they see. One way of dealing with this problem is to never, but never, let anyone get too close. But, just like the problem of risk, not letting anyone get close is also self-defeating. ###

 

Speakers Group MemberA 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. For more information about the ebook featured in this Special Report, CLICK HERE.

 

 

Helping Your Athlete to Win Consistently (Greg Warburton)

Physical skills being the same for a group of athletes, the difference between winning and losing is often a player’s mental approach to the game. It’s not about luck and happenstance. Learn more as we present, “Helping Your Athlete to Win Consistently.”

Greg Warburton, Helping Your Athlete to Win ConsistentlyMental Training Makes the Difference

Mental and emotional focus, preparation and practice are the hallmark of athletes and teams that consistently win. In this interview, mental training consultant and author, Greg Warburton, will introduce us to a sports mental training program he has developed, a program with proven results. Greg is the author of Warburton’s Winning System: Tapping and Other Transformational Mental Training Tools for Athletes.

Energy Psychology and EFT

Warburton's Winning System, Greg WarburtonListen in as Greg describes an approach to mental toughness that’s related to Energy Psychology, a component of sport psychology. He will explain why it’s so critical to always be absolutely honest with one’s self, and why thoughts and actions should relate to “DO” rather than “DON’T.” He will also introduce a relatively new concept called “tapping,” a type of EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). It’s a powerful and always available tool for maintaining calmness, clarity and focus.

Greg Warburton

In addition to his consultation with athletes as young as middle school, Greg has introduced his mental training winning systems to players on five Division I baseball teams; three of them because Division I College World Series Champions over a seven-year period. A fourth team from Oregon State University had several players and mental training proteges that won national awards.

Greg is also an experienced licensed professional counselor and author of the book, Ask More, Tell Less: A Practical Guide for Helping Children Achieve Self-Reliance.  (28:55)

www.gregwarburton.com

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BONUS: Here’s a bonus from Greg, a guide entitled “Daily Mental Training in Sport Psychology.” Download it HERE.

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.

 

 

Comfort in Chaos: Understanding Trauma Brain (Shenandoah Chefalo)

I make no bones about it: As a foster child, I don’t think I was an easy person to get along with. I certainly wasn’t trying to make bonds or connections with those around me. Of course, I knew nothing at the time about trauma brain.

Shenandoah Chefalo, Comfort in Chaos: Understanding Trauma BrainI went into foster care at the age of 13. My life prior to entering the system was one of immense dysfunction; I had practically raised myself. My mom was rarely around, and, when she was, it was usually to tell me that we were moving. We moved over 50 times and I went to more than 35 schools in my life before the age of 13.

Chaos had become my normal.

In learning to “cover” for my mom’s actions, and watching my mom talk her way out of almost any situation, I learned a valuable skill early on: lying. It was a skill that saved me numerous times from severe punishments.

Foster Care and Beyond

I thought foster care would be a positive solution to the life I was living. What I found was more of the same as loneliness, isolation and depression followed me into care. I had become disconnected from my feelings and simply accepted that I was unable to love … and was unlovable. I continued behaviors from the past and found no solace in the families that took me in.

I ultimately aged out of the system at 18 and was turned loose onto the world with no real connections to other people. When I hit the college campus, a feat I wouldn’t learn was remarkable until later, I made a pact with myself to never talk about my past with anyone. I was a good liar, and, because of that skill, I kept that promise to myself for more than 20 years.

Trauma Brain

I spent those years, hiding the past, keeping myself at arms length from any real relationships, and doing the one thing I was knew I was good at: lying. I didn’t know it at the time, but I found myself in what I now refer to as “trauma brain.” I would go to that comfortable place in my mind, a place of Fight, Flight, Freeze or Appease.

For me, there was comfort in chaos. When things in my life were going well, I looked for and caused chaos for myself so I could feel “comfortable.” Of course I  didn’t realize, at least not consciously, that I was doing it until I started to become increasingly unsettled with the life I was living. I had a good job, managed to get married and had a child, but I was only comfortable in the unknown.

I wanted to change.

For most of my life, I chalked up my behavior to the idea that I was just “crazy,” a concept I was comfortable with. I figured it was only a matter of time until I turned into my “crazy” mother. I was working in a law office at this time, and I would watch clients with similar tendencies. I had wondered about their past and when I started to ask, I was surprised by how many of them had been former foster kids, also. I had always assumed there had been very few kids like me. The numbers appearing in my office were off-putting, to say the least.

Garbage Bag Suitcase, Shenandoah ChefaloSelf-help Search

Flash forward. In an effort to find peace in my life, I initially turned to self-help books. I found a little relief, but often found myself going back to old habits. I started to realize that hiding my demons was only making me more depressed and more disconnected.

I tried everything: more books, journaling, yoga, meditation. and hiking. Physical exertion was having an impact, but it only lasted a few hours, then I was back in my mind, returning to old habits.

I finally realized that I had to tell my story. I wrote Garbage Bag Suitcase and began diving into an understanding of trauma and its effects on the brain.

The research began turning me onto new books. Suddenly I understood my “trauma brain” in a whole new way. I wasn’t “crazy;” my brain was just programed to constantly be in Fight, Flight, Freeze, Appease mode, and this knowledge changed everything for me.

Like a Sledding Hill

I recently heard Dr. Cathy Fialon explain trauma brain as a sledding hill. When you go sledding the path becomes worn, so you gain greater speed. The well-worn path is easy and comfortable. However, if you take your sled over a few feet to a part of the hill that hasn’t been used, it becomes more difficult to slide down; you can’t gain momentum and you often start and stop a lot. It takes time, she explained, to break in this new path and make it again enjoyable for sledding.

I understood exactly what she meant. My learned reactions as a child had become the well-worn sledding hill. It was easy for me to go down that road, regardless of the effects. But when I started working on myself (i.e. taking my sled to a new hill) it was difficult. Don’t get me wrong, while I’m still working on breaking in my new path, every once in awhile I like to take a spin on the old one.

That is “trauma brain” retraining ourselves, and oftentimes those we care about, how to break in a new way of thinking. I am thrilled to say I have a new career that allows me to help others recognize their trauma brain and the trauma brain of those around them, and to help themselves and others heal in a brand new way.

After all, we all deserve to try out a new place to sled. ###

 

Speakers Group MemberShenandoah Chefalo is a former foster youth and an advocate. 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

 

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].

 

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.

 

When the Brain Lags the Heart (Michael Byron Smith)

What happens when our need to love and be loved clouds what we KNOW to be true? Michael Byron Smith, author of The Power of Dadhood, offers some personal insight with this piece entitled, “When the Brain Lags the Heart.”

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Michael Byron Smith, The Power of DadhoodThe heart is very loyal. It is faithful to which it loves even when all evidence appears to  indicate it is useless to remain so. This allows us to have hope and patience for the people we hold dear. It also gives those we love time to turn themselves around when they may have been failing us.

A Personal Story

This is a personal story which I am sharing only to help families that may be in a similar situation. Most who read this will hopefully not relate directly, but perhaps you can share it with someone who does.

I loved my dad. He was so interesting and mysterious. He did things I wanted to do. He had been to places I wanted to see. Stories of his travels had me breathlessly spellbound. I longed for his attention and waited for him to come home – sometimes for hours, sometimes for months, even years.

He was a contradiction in himself. My dad was slight in build but had very strong hands. He was a real gentleman, charismatic, very intelligent, and well-liked by most people. There was just one huge problem: My dad was a raging alcoholic.

Some dads are ‘stealthy’ alcoholics that can still function in a somewhat reasonable manner. Not my dad. When he drank, he became an entirely different person from the gentleman I just described. His language became crude and his actions were awkward, then catatonic. His charming persona became slovenly and indecent, a dreadful person to be around. These are difficult things to say about my father, but they are true. With all that, I still rooted for him whenever I could!

An Unearned Title

when the brain lags the heartWhen I think of “Speedo” (his nickname), I think of him as “Dad,” but he never earned that title. He was our biological father, but an appalling example of a husband or caretaker. A lone wolf by nature, he would often disappear for months, going to sea as an able-bodied seaman. (That’s him at sea in the photograph.)

He once told me that, while at sea, he never drank. But as soon as he got to a port, he could not pass up the first bar. He did this knowing he had six children in far-away Missouri that could use his love and support.

He once told my mom, as he walked out of the house going to who knows where, “You take care of them; you’re better at it than me.” “Them” were my three brothers, two sisters, and me! He was irresponsible and unapologetic. Our family could never count on him for anything. The funny thing is, on the occasions when he did provide for us, we were thankful to him. I guess it was because it was so unexpected and rare.

My Chance to Be Supportive

When I was in my early teens, there was a conflict between my mom and dad; they were divorced by this time. Of course, this wasn’t unusual and the circumstances aren’t important. What was unusual is that I saw this incident as a chance to support my father. He was not drinking during this time and could win anyone over with his sober charm. I wanted him to be the virtuous one for once. Never was I against my mother, just longing to support my dad. However, I felt very guilty for rooting for my dad over my mom, who had always been there for us.

The Power of Dadhood, Michael Byron SmithWhat I did was not so unusual. In supporting my dad, despite all the wrong he had done, I was putting my heart before my brain. It happens to all of us at one time or another. I see nothing wrong with it until it starts hurting you and/or others. That’s when your brain must catch up. My dad was never able to beat his alcoholism nor do right by his family, but I gave him every chance.

I’m glad I did because it might have worked. I stopped, however, when I became a man with my own responsibilities. I then confessed (to myself) what I really already knew: He would never change. I couldn’t let him affect my life or my own family’s lives any longer.

He passed away in 1996 of liver disease. Ironically, I was on the Pacific Ocean at the time, on the stern of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln on a dark night, looking at a million stars and thinking about my dad.  A seaman walked up to me and said I had a message in the radio room. This only happens at sea when something bad happens. When I got to the radio room, my wife was on the phone. She told me he had passed away. I became very emotional; I had just lost my father, but it could have been my wife or one of my kids. Sadness and relief came at the same time!

When the Brain Lags the Heart

If you have a spouse or a parent that is failing your family, don’t let your brain get too far behind your heart. You will have to let them know that you need their love and support. Let them know how important they are to you and ask them to change their ways. It might be  a long shot, but it’s well worth a try.

If you are a father (or mother) who is failing his family in some manner, yet you still are adored by your children, don’t think your inattentiveness or failures won’t come back to you somehow, someway. I know my dad suffered from great guilt; he told me so. But that only gave him another excuse to drink.

Get professional help, if you need it, before you lose the closeness, love, or support of your family. Take advantage of the time your loved ones’ hearts are giving you, and turn yourself around. If you don’t, their brains will catch up some day, and then it will be too late. ###

Speakers Group MemberMichael Byron Smith is the author of The Power of Dadhood [website] He also hosts the “Helping Fathers to be Dads” blog