Archive for the ‘Children’s Needs’ Category

Your Children Speak, Can You Hear Them?

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Are you raising kids?  Did that? Will do that?  Do you, or did you, have a manual for doing a bang up job in raising kids?  Did you, or are you going to, raise the kids the way you were raised?  What might you do differently?

Raising kids, no matter what their age, is a two way street.  Kids have feelings, perceptions, and needs.  Oftentimes, however, they are not the best in communicating with you, their parents.  Or, perhaps, you parents are not listening well. Plus, there still are some stone age parents who believe that “kids should be seen but not heard”.

Would you like to “hear” them?  They have spoken to me and I am passing their words on to you. They are now a part of a handout I often use when teaching parenting classes.

Hear your children’s words:

1. Stand by us, not over us.  Give us the feeling that we are not alone in the world, that we can always count on you when we are in trouble.

2. Make us feel that we are loved and wanted.  We want to love you, not as a duty but because you love us.

3. Train us by being affectionately firm. You will achieve more with us through patient teaching than by punishment or preaching. Say “no” when you feel you have to, but explain your rules, don’t merely impose them.

4. Bring us up so that we will not always need you.  Teach us how to take on responsibility and become independent of you.  We will learn this faster and better if you will let us question you, your ideas and standards.

5. Don’t act shocked when we do things we shouldn’t.  It is going to take us time to learn how to grow into life properly.

6. Try to be as consistent as possible.  If you are mixed up about what you want from us, why shouldn’t we be mixed up too in what we give you?

7. Don’t try and make us feel inferior.  We doubt ourselves enough without your confirming it.  Predicting failure won’t help us succeed.

8. Say “nice work” when we do something really well. Don’t hold back the praise when we deserve it. That’s the way to spur us on.

9. Show respect for our wishes even if you disagree with them. Respect for you will flow naturally from your respect of us.

Articulate little devils, aren’t they!  “Out of the mouths of babes…”  Listening to kids is not easy, but it is worth the extra time.  Just as it is for you and me, we like to be heard by significant others in our life. The earlier we can respond to our children’s exhortations the better the results will be for us as the kids go through the challenging teen years.

There is no more important role or mission than to be a loving parent who works in concert with our mate, or ex-spouse, to nurture and mentor our children. Communication with them is essential and an important ingredient for any effective dialogue is to truly hear them.  Adhering to the above nine points will go a long way in developing children of whom you are proud and they are appreciative.  Give it your best shot, no matter what age your kids are. A loving family of well connected adults is a wonderful reality and worth such effort.

Do You Know What Your Marriage Has Done, Is Doing, To Your Child?

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

     In my practice, in addition to seeing individuals and couples, I see young kids and teenagers.  I see them routinely when there is marital discord or a divorce occurring in the family.  Also, I see them when they are having emotional, behavioral, relationship, or academic problems.  When I see these young people they afford me significant insight into themselves, the family unit, and their parents’ marriage.  The success and ultimate happiness of an individual is primarily influenced by his or her parent’s marriage.

      Let me tell you about Sean (real person, fictitious name), age eight.  Sean came into my office one day, closed the door, talked softly, and said, “I don’t think they can hear me.  They’re still doing it – fighting.  I’ve tried everything I can to stop them.  I’ve even tried handing each of them a puppet and asked them to talk to each other nicely through the puppet.  I don’t think I’m going to be successful.”  He then lowered his eyes with a sad expression on his face.

     Talking to Sean was like talking to an adult.  He analyzed his parents and tried to fix them. He was the “parent” trying to stop the kids from arguing.  While he was preoccupied with his parent fix it role, he was devoid of friends, emotionally shut down, and underachieving in school.  Because of his parent’s fighting he had lost his childhood!

     “When a baby comes into the world her brain is a jumble of neurons, all waiting to be woven into an intricate tapestry of the mind. … It is the experience of childhood, determining which neurons are used, that wire the circuits of the brain as surely as a programmer at a keyboard reconfigures the circuits of a computer.  Which keys are typed,which experiences a child has…determines whether the child grows up to be intelligent or dull, fearful or self assured” ( Newsweek, “Your Child’s Brain,” Feb. 19, 1996). Research continues to demonstrate how early and how impactful family stress is on the developing brain of a child.

     It is the role of the parents to configure their child’s brain.  When parents fight, kids (babies through adolescence)  feel the stress, shut down emotionally, and become insecure.  Their brain “wiring” is affected by this turmoil.  Emotions are the energy of behavior.  Feeling this stress, kids tend to get out of balance at one extreme or the other.

     Depending on their age kids become depressed, belligerent, or become a “pleaser.”  They inappropriately experiment with drugs, sex, or alcohol.  Academically, kids do very well for a while or significantly underachieve.  Sibling order can be important here.  Much of the negative “wiring” oftentimes does not “break out” until the teen years.

     Ask your children if your arguing, occasional or frequent, bothers them.  They may tell the truth or protect your feelings.  Kids often do take care of their parents’ feelings. Look into their eyes when you are arguing and you will see significant pain or anger.  It is important that parents know their children’s perception of their marriage.  I have developed a “report card” that I give to kids to get this feedback.  Kids do tell a therapist what they really feel.

     The bottom line is that aware, loving, and knowledgeable parents can “wire” their child’s brain in such a manner that their children can be emotionally secure and successful, not having to worry about their parent’s marriage.  Your child deserves to see and feel the love you have, or can have, for each other.  Give it your best shot!

Holidays and Values: Parental Message to Kids Is?

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

     Most of our values, manners, and style are learned from our parents at an early age.  Holidays and birthdays are impactful.  Christmas and Hannukkah are particularly potent.  Parental behavior, modeling, tells a child what a holiday is all about by imprinting a certain way of being in celebration.   This affects a child all through life unless s/he consciously chooses a different modus operandi later in life. What parental values were passed on to you during the holidays?

     A colleague of mine, Dr. Rick Blue, has written on this topic.  He counsels parents to be aware of buying an abundance of gifts for children.  He says this “helps kids feel entitled to always get what they want.  Before you know it you have the spoiled child syndrome.”  This spoiled child is not prepared for the “real world”. Mental toughness and resiliency are needed for the arduous journey of life. 

     Dr. Blue continues: “This sense of entitlement and self-centeredness leads to problems with giving and sharing later in life.  The narcissistic personality forms in early childhood when kids learn they’re special and have their needs met whenever they want.”

     Dr. Blue suggests the importance of teaching kids the joy of giving, of service to others.  Opportunities for such service would include volunteering at shelters, hospitals, and animal clinics.  Parents certainly can come up with other ways of giving and sharing.

     To change the style of holiday celebrations involves knowing your values and having the courage to impart them.  Such a change may face challenges of being ridiculed or rejected.  Kids may argue and conflict may result.  Can you handle your children’s disappointment, anger, rejection?  Some parents have such strong needs to always be liked by their kids that they do not teach and stand up for the values that ultimately they wish the kids would have. Only strong parents who are sure of their values and committed to develop this attribute in their children can take on such a challenge.

     What will you choose to do during these holidays?  May you make the right choice for you and your family; one that truly represents your spirit and values at this unique time of the year.  Happy Holiday!

Mommy and Daddy, Quit Fighting!!

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

I have counseled thousands of marriages and families in the Atlanta and Lake Oconee area over the years. A couple of observations:
1. Many couples are committed to their marriage and doing what it takes to make it work.
2. Other couples have made a poor choice for a partner and have either stayed together in
battle or have legally gotten rid of each other.
Children are significantly affected by their parent’s marriage, positively and
negatively. The negative impact of battling parents is particularly troubling – whether
the parents stay together and fight within the same household or divorce and wage war
from afar.
“Kids” from six to sixty have told me of the pain and scars caused by their arguing
parents. I wish I had a videotape of each of these embarrassing conversations to show
the parents who yell and scream at each other. I believe most would quit.
Kids tell me of their pain, fears, sadness, anger, stress, inability to concentrate (ADD?), etc…as they hear their parents fight or speak badly of the non present parent. They do what they can to stop the bickering and get their parents back together. One eight year old told me his parents were driving him crazy and that he was running out of ways to stop his parents from yelling. He said that he was going to ask them to speak through puppet characters that night hoping that they would be nicer to each other. He lost his childhood trying to be the “adult” stopping his parents from fighting.
Depending on where a child fits in the sibling order oftentimes foretells what his or
her reaction to the fighting will be. Some kids try to be “perfect” so as to not displease
their parents and cause fighting. Another child will become the “rebel” child so as to
bring the parents together in a common focus on the child. Others will become learning
or emotionally disabled as a result of the stress in the family. Maladaptive neurological
pathways will be formed that limit academic and social performance.
Statistical evidence is clear that children and adults in families experiencing divorce
are two to three times more likely to seek mental health treatment than families in which
there has been no parental separation. One third of former spouses have notable
difficulty in establishing healthy adult relationships with each other after divorce.
Many of the resulting symptoms in kids do not fully emerge until adolescence when
inappropriate emotional, social, behavioral, academic, and addictive problems become
manifest. This is a critical intervention time for these teens to be seen by a family
therapist that understands and can relate to teens. If there is not a good “fit” between
therapist and teen, money and time are just being wasted.
A word of advice to couples in troubled marriages – don’t fight, get help! Kids have
“radar” and feel every emotion present between their parents. If you do not have the
commitment, resources, or hopeful possibility of making a success of your marriage, at
least separate or divorce with class and dignity. Do not embarrass or stress your children
because you picked the “wrong” partner or you have given up. There are guidelines for
helping children cope with divorce which space does not permit. If you would like me
to send you a copy please call me.
I have counseled thousands of marriages and families in the Atlanta and Lake Oconee area over the years. A couple of observations:
1. Many couples are committed to their marriage and doing what it takes to make it work.
2. Other couples have made a poor choice for a partner and have either stayed together in
battle or have legally gotten rid of each other.
Children are significantly affected by their parent’s marriage, positively and
negatively. The negative impact of battling parents is particularly troubling – whether
the parents stay together and fight within the same household or divorce and wage war
from afar.
“Kids” from six to sixty have told me of the pain and scars caused by their arguing
parents. I wish I had a videotape of each of these embarrassing conversations to show
the parents who yell and scream at each other. I believe most would quit.
Kids tell me of their pain, fears, sadness, anger, stress, inability to concentrate (ADD?), etc…as they hear their parents fight or speak badly of the non present parent. They do what they can to stop the bickering and get their parents back together. One eight year old told me his parents were driving him crazy and that he was running out of ways to stop his parents from yelling. He said that he was going to ask them to speak through puppet characters that night hoping that they would be nicer to each other. He lost his childhood trying to be the “adult” stopping his parents from fighting.
Depending on where a child fits in the sibling order oftentimes foretells what his or
her reaction to the fighting will be. Some kids try to be “perfect” so as to not displease
their parents and cause fighting. Another child will become the “rebel” child so as to
bring the parents together in a common focus on the child. Others will become learning
or emotionally disabled as a result of the stress in the family. Maladaptive neurological
pathways will be formed that limit academic and social performance.
Statistical evidence is clear that children and adults in families experiencing divorce
are two to three times more likely to seek mental health treatment than families in which
there has been no parental separation. One third of former spouses have notable
difficulty in establishing healthy adult relationships with each other after divorce.
Many of the resulting symptoms in kids do not fully emerge until adolescence when
inappropriate emotional, social, behavioral, academic, and addictive problems become
manifest. This is a critical intervention time for these teens to be seen by a family
therapist that understands and can relate to teens. If there is not a good “fit” between
therapist and teen, money and time are just being wasted.
A word of advice to couples in troubled marriages – don’t fight, get help! Kids have
“radar” and feel every emotion present between their parents. If you do not have the
commitment, resources, or hopeful possibility of making a success of your marriage, at
least separate or divorce with class and dignity. Do not embarrass or stress your children
because you picked the “wrong” partner or you have given up. There are guidelines for
helping children cope with divorce which space does not permit. If you would like me
to send you a copy please call me.