Category Archives: Health and Safety

Four Steps to Help Parents Reduce Holiday Stress (Dr. Thomas Phelan)

When school lets out for the holidays, changes in schedules and the pressures of the season can come knocking on your door. Psychologist and author, Dr. Tom Phelan, offers some excellent tips for times just like these. These are from our archives.
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The holidays are coming up, and although many parents look forward to having their children home from school, they also find that after a few days it isn’t so easy having the kids underfoot all the time. The youngsters are all excited about Christmas, they start fighting more often, and when they’re not doing that they complain to their parents that they’re bored.

Dr. Tom PhelanThis season is one of those odd times that combine a lot of fun with a lot of stress. It isn’t easy having the children right on top of you again, especially when they’re all pumped up about the presents they’re going to get and can’t seem to leave one another alone. Here are a few ideas for maintaining sanity during these both enjoyable and difficult times.

1. Help Kids Plan or Structure Part of Each Day
With school-age kids, help them plan or structure part of each day, then let the youngsters figure out what they are going to do to entertain themselves for the rest of that day. Do not fall into the trap of seeing yourself as the resident entertainment committee! You might help Emily by allowing her to have a friend over to eat dinner, watch a video and then sleep overnight. The rest of the day your daughter decides for herself what she’ll do. Or you might take Ryan out to lunch and then to a movie, but the rest of the day he entertains himself.

boys_sled2. Be Clear About the Rules from the Start
Make the above rules clear as soon as the vacation starts, so when the kids come up to you and say, “There’s nothing to do,” you can reply, “You and I will be going out at 4, but in the meantime I’m sure you can think of something.” Above all, don’t keep making suggestion after suggestion after suggestion, only to have a child shoot down each idea as soon as it’s out of your mouth. Making a lot of suggestions to your children for what they can do implies that you are responsible for their keeping busy and feeling entertained.

3. Plan Lots of One-on-One Fun
Plan lots of activities one on one with your children. Just you and one child—no spouse or siblings. Not only does this eliminate the fighting, it offers the opportunity for real closeness and bonding. Most parents find that it’s a lot easier to have fun when it’s just you and one child, rather than the whole family together. This may sound funny, but family fun is overrated! Kids love having a parent all to themselves, and under these circumstances each youngster is usually much easier to get along with.

4. Avoid Feeling Guilty
Don’t feel guilty if—two days before December 25—you find yourself wishing the kids were back in school already. You have lots of company! It’s not easy having a lot of wound-up little ones chasing each other around the house.

Dr. Thomas Phelan is a clinical psychologist and the author of 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 (1.5 million copies sold). His most recent book is Tantrums! Managing Meltdowns in Public and Private. Visit www.123magic.com for more information.

 

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

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

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

Katrina

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

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

The Joy of Helping Others

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

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

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

Volunteers Needed

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

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

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

 

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

 

The Magic of Storytelling (Guest: Bill Ratner)

BTRadioInt-300x75Storytelling is a great activity for bringing families together in a pleasantly “non-techie” fashion. Voice-over specialist and father, Bill Ratner, shares his experience in storytelling and its effects on his own family.

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Storytelling is as old as recorded time; older, actually. Stories have always had a way of weaving a tapestry of connectedness, of support and dependence upon each other. Stories bring past and present together as they share a medium unique to humans: the spoken word.

The Magic of Storytelling, Bill RatnerBut is the art, practice and opportunities afforded by storytelling, of being and sharing with others, trailing behind our contemporary forms of communication by digital expression? Are we losing something when we can communicate worldwide at a keystroke, yet still be isolated and alone? Have we gone too far with the conveniences of instantaneous messaging? Most importantly, has it taken a hold on our children?

In an earlier interview on the Changing Behavior Network, voice-over specialist, Bill Ratner, shared his most heartfelt concerns regarding screen addiction and digital overload on our children and teens, as well as excessive pressures placed on them by advertising and the media. To address these very issues, Bill wrote Parenting for the Digital Age: The Truth Behind Media’s Effect on Children and What to Do About It. In the book, Bill gives his take on the problems created, as well as potential solutions and needs for reasonable balance.

Parenting for the Digital Age, Bill RatnerPerhaps you’ve never met Bill, but chances are you’ve heard him. He’s a leading voice-over artist and voice actor in thousands of movie trailers, cartoons, television features, games and commercials. Through advertising, he has been the voice of many leading corporations.

But, while raising a family, Bill realized his children were being bombarded by messages he helped create. So, in his concern for the well-being of all young people, Bill founded a program of media awareness for youngsters, wrote Parenting for the Digital Age, and looks to share his thoughts and his experience on the topic wherever and whenever he can.

In this interview, Bill discusses the art and practice of storytelling as one avenue for bringing youngsters and families together, face-to-face, as they share in the time-tested experience of stories. As a bonus, this interview closes with a five-minute story told by Bill, a story that was aired on National Public Radio. (27:42)

www.billratner.com/parentingbook.html

www.TheMoth.org (A prime storytelling website)

Bill and his work are discussed in THIS ARTICLE published in TIME

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Teaching Impulse Control (Christy Monson)

Issues of impulse control in children can create problems that only worsen over time. Quality of life can be seriously affected. Former therapist, Christy Monson, offers doable techniques and tips for helping youngsters manage frustration make better decisions regarding behavior.

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Teaching Impulse Control, Christy MonsonMany articles and research studies have been done concerning impulse control in children. But what about adults that have poor impulse control?

My husband and I are giving service at an inner-city retirement high-rise. Many of these people have never learned to control their behaviors. Some led professional lives, but because of impulsive decisions, lost their businesses and their money. Others have drug and alcohol problem because of their lack of control. They trade drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and money back and forth, according to the impulse of the moment.

Love Hugs and Hope, Christy MonsonI am teaching an addictions class right now and have found limited success with a modified group of behavioral expectations that I used with children in my counseling practice. Because of the struggle many of these people have, and because of the poor quality of life they now participate in, I implore everyone I come in contact with to teach impulse control to their children and grandchildren.

Here are a few of the techniques that have been effective in my class.

1. Look for the primary emotion underneath the anger, fear, eating, or whatever the impulsive behavior is. Discuss it with your child.

2. Set a pattern: STOP, THINK, CHOOSE. Make a visual and talk about this thinking process.

3. Develop clear expectations.

4. Have a daily report in place.

5. Use positive incentives, like a token economy. (Every time a positive behavior happens, put a bean in a jar. As soon as the jar is full, have a party.)

6. Give predictable consequences.

7. Always PRAISE THE POSITIVE

 

Enjoy your children. Raise them according to your standards and beliefs, BUT teach them to control themselves so that they will become healthy adults who are able to enjoy a quality retirement in their later years.###

 

Christy 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].

 

 

Children, Teens and Sleep (Guest: Dr. Robert Rosenberg)

BTRadioIntAs youngsters head back to school it’s critically important that they get sufficient sleep to maintain alertness and vitality. In this interview originally aired in November of 2015, sleep medicine specialist, Dr. Robert Rosenberg, offers insights in the sleep needs of children and teens, and how we can help them meet those needs effectively.

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As important as a good night’s rest is to all of us, it would be easy to underestimate the value of sleep in our lives. According to the National Center for Disease Control, however, 50-70 million Americans with sleep disorders clearly indicate how difficulty with sleep can lead to serious problems with vitality, productivity and overall health.

RRosenbergphotoPut another way, we need sufficient restorative sleep in order to survive and succeed.

What about the sleep needs of children and teens? What affects their sleep and what are the signs and symptoms that a youngster is sleep-deficient and struggling? Are children and teens with sleep issues ever misdiagnosed or mismanaged as having another physical, behavioral or emotional condition? How do we effectively identify, treat and manage sleep concerns in children and teens? Our guest on this program, physician, nationally-recognized sleep expert and author, Dr. Robert Rosenberg, will offer straight-talk insights and answers to these sleep questions and more.

RRosenbergbookDr. Rosenberg is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Diseases and Sleep Medicine. For the past two decades his practice has been limited exclusively to sleep medicine. Dr. Rosenberg is Medical Director of The Sleep Disorders Center of Prescott Valley in Arizona. His advice has appeared in columns and blogs of many popular magazines such as “O, The Oprah Magazine,” “Woman’s World,” “Prevention,” “Parenting” and “Ladies Home Journal,” among others. In addition his many appearances on television and radio, he hosts his own radio show, “Answers for Sleep” on HealthyLife.net. In this program we’re featuring his very popular book, Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day: A Doctor’s Guide to Solving Your Sleep Problems. (27:50)

www.answersforsleep.com

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Answers to Parents’ Questions About Raising Teens (Dr. Thomas W. Phelan)

Understanding why teens behave the way they do can help parents implement better responses and interventions. Psychologist and author, Dr. Thomas W. Phelan, offers his experience and insights on raising teens. And, as usual, what he shares makes a LOT of sense.
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Answers to Parents' Questions About Raising Teens, Dr. Thomas PhelanWhat does it mean to set limits with your teenager?

To begin with, setting limits means having what we call “House Rules.” These are agreed upon (and sometimes written) rules regarding issues such as hours, use of the car, alcohol and drugs, studying and grades. Parents can also have an understanding with their teens regarding work, money management, family outings, and even dating and friends. Setting limits can also include agreements about how to handle violations of the contracts that have been made.

Why is setting limits with your teenager such a crucial thing for parents to do? Why is setting limits such an important concept these days? What happens to teenagers who don’t respect limits? What are they like as adults?

Limits are important for two reasons. First, limits and rules are a part of life. In a sense, they are also a prescription for how to live a good life. Being able to put up with reasonable restrictions and guidelines is part of what is known as “high frustration tolerance” (HFT). HFT is a critical skill for adult success no matter what one chooses to do.

Second, reasonable limits keep teens safer. Parents are acutely aware of the Big Four adolescent risks: driving, drugs and alcohol, sex and romance, and technology. Teens and adults who don’t like rules and limits have a harder time getting along with teachers, employers, friends and romantic partners. They also get hurt more often by means of traffic accidents, drug use, unwanted pregnancy and STDs, and internet predation.

What happened to teenagers simply having respect for their elders?

Good question! Part of the answer lies in human history. Adolescence—and the mistrust/dislike of adults that often accompanies it—is a relatively recent phenomenon. Just a few hundred years ago, adolescence probably did not exist. You were a child, and then, Bam!—you were an adult. There was no in between. Adolescence is largely a function of industrialized countries in which education became more and more important for job success. Education, in turn, delayed “growing up” because kids had to remain in school. In the U.S. today, the delay from onset of puberty to leaving home and hitting the job market can be 7-10 years or more. Teenagers really want to be adults, but today they have to sit around and wait for that. Can’t blame them for not liking the long and somewhat nebulous interval. In our culture, I don’t think we do a good job of helping kids make this intermediate existence meaningful.

Why do so many parents fall into the “I want to be a friend, not a parent” trap?

Good parents, research shows frequently, are both warm (friendly) as well as demanding (I expect something from you). Some of us adults, however, are better at the warm part and some are better at the demanding part. Warm-only moms and dads—sometimes known as permissive or pushover parents—are uncomfortable with the demanding role, and so they focus primarily on trying to be a friend to their kids. These children are more likely to develop “low frustration tolerance” (LFT). These kids often develop a sense of entitlement and they have trouble sticking with difficult tasks.

Why is it important for teenagers to be able to make some of their own decisions? How can parents set limits with their teens while still encouraging independent decision-making?

Like it or not, your teens ultimate goal is to get rid of you! You don’t want them living at home forever. You do want them to become competent adults who are financially independent, have their own friends, start their own families, and know how to enjoy life on a daily basis. This goal means your current strategy is to wean you children from your oversight. You want them to make more and more of their own decisions. Another way of saying this is you must avoid chronic and unnecessary parental supervision—otherwise known as overparenting.

In other words, set up your house rules, maintain a good relationship with your kids, and then get out of their way!

There is so much that parents have to guard against these days – social media, a lax culture, politics, etc. – how do parents make the tough decisions they have to enforce with teens today?

First, nail down your house rules. Keep them minimal, firm and fair. Second, stay in touch. Discuss social media, sex, lax culture, politics and drugs with your kids. This does not mean lecture them! Allow for differences of opinion and be respectful.

How do parents stay firm with their kids but not mean or angry? How do you say no to your teen and really mean it? How does a parent stay firm but fair?

Mean or angry is no way to discuss or enforce limits. Whatever comes out of a parent’s mouth during a parental temper tantrum automatically becomes silly and useless—even if the words themselves might look reasonable if they were written down on paper. Parents often feel anxious and sometimes even guilty when they explain a rule or a consequence to a disgruntled-looking adolescent. One important parenting skill is knowing when to stop talking! In many situations, the more you talk the less sure of yourself you look.

Surviving Your Adolescents, Dr. Thomas W. PhalenWhat’s your best advice to a parent who wants to raise an independent teen? What kind of practical advice and real examples do you have to offer?

When they are concerned about a possible problem, parents of teens need to think a bit before they intervene. In fact, there are four possible intervention roles moms and dads can consider. Choosing the best role depends on several things: the child’s safety, the parent/child relationship, and the goal of increasing a teen’s independence.

Role 1: Observer. In this role, a parent really does nothing other than watch what’s happening for a while. Maybe your son has a new friend you’re not sure about. Sit tight for a bit and see how the new relationship develops.

Role 2: Advisor. Your daughter who normally maintains a B average, is getting a D in science this semester. You might ask her what’s up, listen attentively, then suggest she try talking things over with her teacher. Keep in mind, though, that when you are in the Advisor role, your child does not have to accept your advice. Tell them you’ll trust them to work things out. That’s respecting independence.

Role 3: Negotiator. Something is bugging you and you do not feel your adolescent is handling it well. Your next possible intervention role is to negotiate. You first set up an appointment—spontaneous problem discussions are dangerous and volatile. You might say something like, “When’s a good time for you and me to talk about the leftover food in your room? It’s starting to smell up there.”

Role 4: Director. Your 17-year-old son broke up with his girlfriend two months ago. His grades have dropped, he’s lost weight, and he seems always crabby. You think he’s depressed, so your going to gently-but-firmly insist he see a counselor. Listen sympathetically first, then make your suggestion and ask him to think about it. But it’s not going to be negotiable.

What do you think it means to really parent today?

Parenting teens can be tough. As a mom or dad, you can often feel you are being torn into many pieces. It’s important to have a good job description. Here’s one we like:

1. Don’t take it personally. Your teens will be pulling away from you, even snubbing you at times (“How was your day?” “Fine.” “What did you do?” “Nothin’.”) This kind of interaction is normal. Nobody—neither you nor your teen—did anything wrong.

2. Manage AND let go. Respect and maintain your house rules while you increasingly allow more and more independence for your teenagers.

3. Stay in touch with the kids. Maintaining a good relationship with a teen is critical. Use business-like praise, talking about yourself, sympathetic listening, and regular one-on-one (not always family!) fun to keep in contact.

4. Take care of yourself. If you’re old enough to be a parent of a teen, you’re probably a mid-lifer! Not an easy task. Take care of yourself so you don’t take out your troubles on a sometimes irritating and distant kid.

5. Relax and enjoy the movie. Your kids only grow up once. Try to enjoy the show!

Dr. Thomas W. Phelan is an internationally renowned expert, author, and lecturer on child discipline and attention deficit disorder. For years, millions of parents from all over the world have used the award-winning 1-2-3 Magic program to help them raise happier, healthier families and put the fun back into parenting. A registered PhD clinical psychologist, Dr. Phelan appears frequently on radio and TV. He practices and works in the western suburbs of Chicago. Website: 123magic.com

The Silo: A Mother’s Intuition (John Starley Allen)

Author John Starley Allen shares a gripping and true story about how his mother’s intuition and the obedience of her sons to her words of caution most likely saved their lives. This story reflects the need for trust between parents and their children.

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The following is a true story about an incident from my childhood. After the story, I offer a few words of commentary.

 

The Silo: A Mother's Intuition, John Starley Allen“Hey, John, let’s run out to the silo,” my older brother, Sam, called out as he ran past me.

“Wait up!” I ran as fast as I could to catch up to Sam.

My brother and I lived on a big farm in the country with our mother and grandfather. We loved the fresh air, the open space, and the green fields that turned gold in the fall. But most of all, we loved the silo. To me, it looked like a giant soup can without the label.

As we got closer to the silo, I could see its rusty patches, dents, and cracks. I once asked Sam about them. He explained, “You know how Grandpa’s face is kind of wrinkled and how he has brown spots on his hands? It’s because he’s old. Well, that’s how it is with the silo. I bet it was shiny and smooth when it was new.”

For two boys with active imaginations, the silo represented all sorts of things. Some days it was an ancient castle. Sometimes we pretended it was a tall skyscraper or a pirate ship. I especially enjoyed standing in the center of it and yelling as loud as I could, then hearing my echo bounce off the curved walls.

When we reached the silo, Sam said, “Let’s play spaceship.” For the next twenty minutes, we pretended to soar through space and discover new planets.

We took turns climbing to the top of the steel ladder rungs welded inside and outside the silo, pretending that we were on the spaceship’s observation deck. Just as I had spotted a new planet, Mother’s voice brought both would-be space explorers back to earth.

“John! Sam! Time for supper.”

During supper, Grandpa asked us what we had been up to.

“We were playing spaceship in the silo,” Sam said.

“You boys sure enjoy that old silo, don’t you?”

“You bet,” I said. “Grandpa, can I ask you a question? Back in the old days, what was the silo used for?”

“Well, it was kind of like a big closet to store things in,” Grandpa said. “When this farm was in full swing, we needed somewhere to store all the feed for the cattle.”

My eyes grew big. “You mean you filled the whole silo with just feed? You must have had a lot of cattle!”

“We did. I remember when my papa had the silo built. I was just about your age. It was new and shiny, and one of the tallest things I’d ever seen.”

After supper, I cleared the table, and Sam helped Mother wash the dishes. When the dishes were done, Sam asked if we could go out and play.

“No,” Mother said. “I want to talk to you both. Let’s go into the front room.”

From the look on Mother’s face, we knew that she had something serious on her mind. We followed her into the front room and sat down.

“I know how much you enjoy playing in the silo,” she began, “but today I had a strong feeling. Right before I called you in for dinner, I felt that you shouldn’t play in it anymore.”

“But Mom, that’s our favorite place to play!” Sam cried.

“Yeah, Mom!” John frowned.

“I know you like playing there. But I can’t deny what I felt. I had a strong impression—call it intuition–that you shouldn’t play there anymore.”

“So that’s how you feel about the silo?” Sam asked.

“That’s right. I can’t give you any other reason except that I strongly feel you shouldn’t play there anymore.”

Later that night, when we were both in bed, I asked Sam, “Do you really believe what Mom said about the silo?”

“Yeah, I do.”

“How come?”

“I’ve never told anyone this, but do you know Bobby Morrison?”

“The tall kid with red hair?”

“That’s the one. Well, last year he and I planned how to cheat on a history test. I’m not going to tell you what the plan was, because I don’t want you trying a dumb stunt like that.”

“If it’s so dumb, why did you do it?”

“Well, I’m getting to that part. When the test started, I remembered what mom had once told me. She said, ‘You know it’s wrong to cheat.’ After that, I just couldn’t go through with it.”

“So what’s the big deal?” I asked.

“The big deal is that Bobby Morrison got caught cheating…and he got into a lot of trouble.”

I thought about what Sam had said for a moment, then asked “So you’re not even going to sneak over to the silo?”

“No.”

“Well,” I said reluctantly, “I guess I won’t either.”

The next few days were hard for us. We had to think of new games to play that didn’t involve the silo. One afternoon Sam said, “Let’s put a puzzle together.”

“Aw, who wants to do that?” I groaned.

“Do you have any better ideas?”

Since I didn’t, we set up a table on the back porch and started working on a puzzle. But I had a hard time concentrating—my eyes kept wandering in the direction of the silo. The good old silo. “Too bad we can’t play there anymore,” I thought miserably.

“Hey, stop daydreaming,” Sam said.

Before I could reply, Mother came out with a pitcher of cool lemonade.

As the three of us drank from frosty glasses, we heard a low rumble. The ground trembled, and the puzzle pieces on the table started doing a crazy dance.

“Look!” I pointed at the silo.

It wobbled and leaned to one side. The rumble grew louder while another sound filled the air—the sound of metal scraping, grinding, and ripping. A great cloud of dust rose up as the silo crashed to the ground.

Grandpa came running out of the house. “What in the world?” Then he saw the silo. “Oh! Oh, my!”

That night, I lay in bed unable to sleep. I kept thinking about my mom and the silo. And I realized my mom was a person I could trust.

Building trust is a huge part of being a parent. If you can earn your children’s trust, many other things will fall into place.

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A Splash of Kindness, John Starley AllenIn my mom’s case, she had a feeling—an intuition— that she trusted concerning the silo. And because she trusted her impression, she passed it along to my brother and myself. The fact that we abided her counsel—albeit not without some grumbling—shows that because of past experiences, we already trusted her.

She was not one who issued frivolous commands or who let her current temperament—frustrated or sanguine–dictate the kind of punishment she meted out. Her punishments were measured, consistent, and always “fit the crime.”

(On a side note, I have a friend who recalls his father regularly administering belt whippings. The father would come home after work, tired and frustrated, hear from him wife about some infraction—major or minor—committed by my friend, and a belt whipping would ensue. Even at a young age, my friend instinctively knew that something wasn’t right about regular whippings. It was more about his dad relieving frustrations than about teaching his son how to live a better life. And the sad result of this was that my friend lost any kind of trust in his dad.)

When I witnessed the silo overturn and crumble, that forever “sealed the deal” on the issue of trusting my mom.

So later on, when she would tell me of the dangers of drugs, or the pitfalls of hanging out with the wrong kind of friends, I believed her. I distinctly remember going to a particular party as a teenager.

As I was heading out the door, I think she must have had one of her impressions and realized the kind of party I was going to attend. She said to me very simply, “Don’t do anything you know I wouldn’t approve of.”

Her words rang through my head for the rest of the night. And so when I was offered a joint of marijuana, a can of beer, or a swig of vodka someone had appropriated from his father’s liquor supply, I declined. I wasn’t the life of the party, but I felt at peace knowing that I hadn’t let my mom down.

Through the years I knew that if my mom offered advice, it was heartfelt, well-thought out, and something that merited my attention.

My mom wasn’t the kind of person who constantly offered advice on any and every subject. But when she did, you knew that she honestly felt it was important for her to express her viewpoint.

And whenever she did, in my mind I would see the image of the buckling, crumbling silo… ###

 

In addition to A Splash of Kindness: The Ripple Effect of Compassion, Courage and Character, John Starley Allen is also the author of a holiday novel, Christmas Gifts, Christmas Voices, as well as a singer and songwriter. [website]

Protecting Kids Most at Risk for Cyber Harm (Guest: Dr. John DeGarmo)

The Changing Behavior Network, Radio Style InterviewDr. John DeGarmo shares how some youngsters are more at risk for cyber harm than others because of their needs, insecurities, and histories of difficulty. Listen in to this program from our archives as he discusses the dangers of unmonitored internet access, the problems it can create, and ways to manage issues more effectively.

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Protecting Kids Most at Risk for Cyber Harm, Dr. John DeGarmoFor most folks, the internet has been a valuable resource and an enormous time-saver. The internet is virtually unlimited in its capacity to provide, in the blink of an eye, needed information and resources. Lives have been saved because of the availability and speed of the internet.

But, as we all know, lives have been burdened and even destroyed through use of the internet, and many of them were children and teens.

Cyberbullying is a serious problem, as are cyber predators looking for vulnerable young people. There are websites showing one how to make weapons and bombs, as well as sites that not only show a young person how to take their life, but convince them to do so. According to our guest on this program, Dr. John DeGarmo, these cyber dangers are just the tip of the iceberg.

Listen in as your host, psychologist Dr. James Sutton, interviews Dr. DeGarmo on the dangers of unmonitored internet access, the problems it can create, and ways to manage issues more effectively.

Keeing Foster Children Safe Online, Dr. John DeGarmoDr. DeGarmo also shares how some youngsters are more at-risk for cyber harm because of their needs, their insecurities and their histories of difficulty. Foster children are especially vulnerable to this sort of harm, deception, inappropriate contact through the internet, but non-foster youngsters can be affected, also.

Dr. DeGarmo provides training nationally to foster parents on how to keep kids safe online. He and his wife are foster parents themselves; they practice these interventions every day. They work!

In addition to a busy speaking and training schedule, Dr. DeGarmo is the host of a weekly radio show, Foster Talk with Dr. John. He also writes extensively on the topic of foster care. Today we are featuring his book entitled, Keeping Foster Kids Safe Online. (27:46)

http://www.drjohndegarmofostercare.weebly.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Epigenetic Shifts

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

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

2. Size and Shape of the Brain

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

3. Neural Pruning

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

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

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

4. Telomeres

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

5. Default Mode Network

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

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

6. Brain-Body Pathway

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

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

7. Brain Connectivity

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

According to Herringa:

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Collision Course

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lessons Learned

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

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

Life Lessons Learned in a South Texas Oilfield, Dr. James SuttonI believe Dad intuitively knew that lecturing me about my driving mistakes would have served no real purpose. True to that thought, he never said another word about it to me. If he figured I had learned that lesson well enough with no need for additional reminders, he was correct.

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

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

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

 

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