Category Archives: Counseling and Therapy

What Kids and Teens Are Capable Of! (Greg Warburton)

Greg Warburton, counselor and author, believes strongly that kids and teens have great capacity to be self-reliant if given the opportunity. He shares here what he has observed, learned and encouraged.
Every Tuesday, Greg posts, through his website blog (link), an inspiring story about a self-reliant youth and their contribution to others. He also invites your questions and input on how we can best “set the life stage” for self-reliance building in all youth.
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Ask yourself this question, as you consider if you are open to having your beliefs challenged:

What do I truly believe kids and teens are capable of in the arena of self-reliant action and contribution from the earliest ages?

In my most recent book, Ask More, Tell Less: A Practical Guide for Helping Children Achieve Self-Reliance, I explain how I hold an unshakable belief in the capabilities and wisdom of young people, knowing that they can indeed manifest their “I-am-a-one-of-a-kind-human-masterpiece” status!

A FIRST STEP

As a counselor, I strive to see that my work stays rooted in dignity, respect, and compassion. In turn, I’m frequently privileged to watch the process of self-directed change begin to take place in my office. As an example, consider the day when a 12-year-old said this to me:

I was sitting in church the other day and started thinking, if I don’t start acting different I’m going to have a miserable life.

That was a first step on a remarkable journey of self-empowerment for that child. I wish for you, also, a part in a inspiring and fulfilling adventure like this one.

Raising self-reliant children is more important than ever. Change and confusion are constants; there’s no doubt this modern world is increasingly difficult to navigate. Unfortunately, our culture provides little in the way of a tangible, practical, and comprehensive road map for the child traveler. Honestly, that was my mission with this book … to provide a kind of road map.

Rebecca

I had not been counseling long when I met a small, freckle-faced, nine-year-old girl named Rebecca. She did something during our first meeting that I will never forget, and I want to share her story as a way to introduce the power of these ideas.

To begin the conversation about the trouble at home, I said:

Rebecca, your mother is calling the trouble “crying and tantrums.” Is that what you call it or do you have a different name?

“I call it ‘having the fits,’” Rebecca said. From then on, we used Rebecca’s words to describe the trouble.

To gauge her willingness, I asked Rebecca:

Do you think having the fits has taken over your life, or do you think you can still fight against the fits?

Ask More Tell Less, Greg WarburtonIn the next moment, only about ten minutes into our first meeting, Rebecca jumped out of her chair, stood up straight and announced:

I’ll just get rid of the fits and grow up!

Just as quickly as Rebecca had made up her mind, I began to get in her way with my doubt. I thought how my professors didn’t teach me about the possibility of change occurring quickly … and certainly not instantly!

I wondered how this nine-year-old girl had figured out what to do about her very troubling behavior within the first few minutes of our first meeting. I began asking her, in a variety of ways, if she was sure that this is all it would take for her life to be better. Within a few minutes, I could see that she was certain.

Fortunately for Rebecca, I had the good sense to stop asking her more questions and just be quiet.

Interactions like this launched my What Kids and Teens are Capable Of! blog-post series. Content also will be related to taking some pressure off parents, teachers and counselors by providing a box full of practical tools as they engage in the adventure of “creating” self-reliant youth that can contribute to the world all along the getting-on-with-growing-UP pathway.

It is my hope you will find this resource helpful and inspiring, and that you will tell others about it. ###

Greg Warburton is an experienced mental health professional who believes that children and parents grow as they become more self-reliant. For more information about his work, his book and the blog mentioned in this article, go to his website, selfreliantkids.com.

 

A Foster Kid’s Dilemma: Who 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

 

Five String Recovery, Part 2 (Guest: Phillip Wadlow)

A 16-year-old musician wins a national bluegrass championship while secretly battling addiction. Here’s the second of his two-part story about his recovery, his music, and his message to young people.

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Five String Recovery, Phillip WadlowThis is the concluding part of 5-String Recovery with guest, Phillip Wadlow. In this part he tells of moving into adulthood with his drug and alcohol addiction, and how it affected his marriage, his children, his work, and his health. He also shares how he came to realize he needed treatment, and he tells of that experience. Throughout the interview, Phil plays some of the music that was such a significant part of his life, and shares how he’d like to use his music as an avenue for reaching out to young people. (Dr. Sutton, the interviewer, plays back-up guitar, except for the sad, but appropriate, guitar solo that represents one of the lowest points in Phil’s life.)

The original message of this interview was a cassette tape program, thus the reference to the cassette near the end of the program. Because Phil did move around quite a bit over the years, it is not know exactly where he is now, but life goes on. His children are grown now, of course, and it is know that he has remarried and, at last word, he and his wife were managing an apartment complex in Missouri.

There is a powerful message Phil wants young people need to hear, and this is it: Although one can recover from drugs and alcohol and work a program of dedicated sobriety, the costs of addiction impose many losses than cannot be recovered. Unless one takes responsibility for those losses, instead of blaming others, complete recovery is difficult, indeed. (20:40)

To listen, use the player below or left-click the link. To access the file right-click and “Save Target as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE FOR LINK


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Five String Recovery, Part 1 (Guest: Phillip Wadlow)

A 16-year-old musician wins a national bluegrass championship while secretly battling addiction. Here’s his two-part story about his recovery, his music, and his message to young people.

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Five String Recovery, Phil Wadlow, The Changing Behavior Network

If you take a Missouri boy who grew up with bluegrass music and encourage his natural talent for playing it well, you’ll have the ingredients for an awesome career very few can achieve.

Young Phillip Wadlow was that Missouri boy. Everything was falling into place for him, until drugs and alcohol threatened to destroy him and all he held dear. This is his story and his music, in two parts. This interview was recorded in May of 1990, as Phil was completing his first year of recovery and sobriety. It’s a story Phil wants young people to hear, for he hopes they can learn from the wrong turns he took.Five String Recovery, Phillip Wadlow

In this part, Part One, Phil shares how he began using marijuana at a very young age, and how so quickly its use became chronic. But Phil also shares about the music he grew up with and how, at 16, he won a national bluegrass championship. He plays the song that took first place, “Cattle in the Cane.” The joy of being recognized for his music, however, was tainted by the fact he was, by then, completely dependent upon his drug of choice.

Dr. Sutton, the host in this interview, picks up his guitar and accompanies Phil on most of the songs in both parts on the interview. The banjo solo at the opening is an original composition of Phil’s, “Dusty Roads.” (22:12)

To listen, use the player below or left-click the link. To access the file, right-click and “Save Target as …” to save to your audio device), CLICK HERE.


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From Incorrigible to Incredible: What Toby Taught Us, Part 2 (Guest: Charmaine Hammond)

  • URadio-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 two 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. (17:54)

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

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


(START/STOP Audio)

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

 

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


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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

TO LISTEN, use the player below or 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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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.

 

 

Co-Parenting with an Addict After Divorce: Developing the Right Mindset (Rosalind Sedacca, CDC)

 

Addiction and divorce can both cause confusion and conflict in the lives of children. Rosalind Sedacca has insights that can help. The Changing Behavior Network presents, “Co-Parenting with an Addict After Divorce: Developing the Right Mindset.”

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Co-Parenting with an Addict After Divorce: Developing the Right Mindset, Rosalind Sedacca Getting divorced and exploring the realities of co-parenting ahead? Life after divorce can be enormously complex; it’s especially challenging for parents who are coping with addiction issues and their consequences.

Cooperative co-parenting is always best for your children. It is easier for them to accept life after divorce when they have access, love and attention from both parents. Post-divorce co-parenting with an addict makes this process more complicated, especially if one parent is not fully dependable, trustworthy or responsible.

Common Parental Issues Following Divorce

Difficulties can be compounded by the many issues all parents face following a divorce:

• Both parents are bringing the raw emotions resulting from the divorce into a new stage in their lives.

• Mom and Dad are also bringing previous baggage from the marriage (ongoing conflicts, major disputes, differing styles of communication, unresolved issues and continual frustrations) into the mix as they negotiate a co-parenting plan.

• Both parents are vying for the respect and love of the children, They are easily tempted to slant their parenting decisions in the direction that wins them popularity with the kids.

• Anger and resentment resulting from the divorce settlement can impact and influence levels of cooperation in the months and years to come.

• Parents may disagree about major issues ahead that weren’t part of the parenting dynamic in the past: visits and sleepovers with friends, scheduling after-school activities, handling curfews, new behavior problems, consequences for smoking, drinking and drug use, dating parameters, using the car, and scheduling vacation time.

• Parents may not share values and visions for the children as they grow, and they may also not agree on the plan of action required to honor those values.

Challenges

When challenges appear, parents might find themselves struggling to find ways of coping. Agreement on how to co-parent effectively in the present and the future is not a one-time discussion. It takes on-going communication, both verbal and written, as well as regular connections via phone, email or in person. It also takes a commitment to make co-parenting work because you both want it to.

The consequences, when it doesn’t work, can be considerable. Your children are very likely to exploit any lack of parental agreement or unity, pitting Mom and Dad against one another while they eagerly take advantage of the situation. This is a danger sign that can result in major family turmoil fueled by behavior problems that neither parent is prepared to handle.

Addiction: Another Layer of Confusion

Addiction problems bring another layer of confusion. The addicted parent may not be granted shared custody and may have limited visitation. I encourage these parents to take advantage of video chats, emails, texting and other options today’s technology offers to support close parent-child connection.

It is essential that both parents always keep their promises and show up on time. Disappointments deeply hurt children. They will lose their trust and respect for a parent, which is hard to earn back. Don’t make agreements you can’t live up to. And never show up intoxicated or unprepared to parent, but be fully focused on your children and their needs.

When Mom and Dad are on the same page, they can parent as a team regardless of how far apart they live. These parents agree about behavioral rules, consequences, schedules and shared intentions regarding their children. They discuss areas of disagreement and find solutions they can both live with, or agree to disagree and not make those differences an area of contention.

If meals with Mom are vastly different than food offerings during time with Dad, that can still work if both parents respect the differences and let the children know it’s all okay. When differences become an area of high conflict, that’s when the kids can get hurt, being caught between battling parental egos. Children are confused and often feel guilty in battling parent situations, which rarely leads to any good within the post-divorce family structure.

Rosalind Sedacca, Parenting Beyond DivorceWhen to Consider Professional Support

Get professional support to guide you if you’re uncomfortable when the kids are with your co-parent. Discuss your options objectively. Sometimes we’re so caught up in past situations we can’t create workable solutions for co-parenting success without the assistance of a divorce mediator, therapist or mentor experienced with addiction and its challenges.

Keep in mind that when you’re more open and receptive to your co-parent, you are more likely to get what you really want in the end. Good listening skills, flexibility and the commitment to do what’s best on behalf of your children are part of a smart co-parenting mindset. Remember that co-parenting will be a life-long process for the two of you. Why not do it in a way that will garner your children’s respect and appreciation? They will thank you when they are grown adults. ###

 

Speakers Group Member, Rosalind SedaccaRosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach/Mentor and Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. She’s author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? and co-host of The Divorce View Talk Show and podcast. For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right, her mentoring services and other valuable resources on mastering child-centered divorce, go to: www.childcentereddivorce.com.

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.