Therapy That Works...

Shuffling The Deck - By Chris Gearing

Monday, August 22, 2016

How do parents, siblings, and families fare after a child leaves for college?

Ushering a child off to college is a landmark event, but most people tend to focus on the new college undergrad and not the family they left behind. How do they redefine their new household now that one member has left the nest? In order to navigate this special time in your family’s life, here are some common myths and the real science to dispel them.

Lets look at mom and dad first:

Myth: Women fall apart when the children leave

Are you picturing a woman sitting forlornly at the kitchen table drinking her third glass of wine before noon? Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, most women reach new heights once they are released from the daily grind of taking care of children. Leading researchers say that most women already have a defined role separate from the family – perhaps a career, in the community, at church, or even in a PTA or a neighborhood association. They often come into their own as leaders and decision makers once the kids go off to college.

Myth: Men are always strong and sturdy once the kids depart

The days of distant dads are gone! According to research, fathers struggle more than mothers when the kids leave home. In contrast to their wives, men don’t prepare for or process the changes to the household until it’s too late. With that “stiff upper lip” mentality, they remain stoic and strong until the reality hits them all at once. Their precious son or darling daughter is now an adult and won’t be home for dinner. If it really hits them hard, they can even withdraw into a significant sadness or even depression about what could have been or how they should have handled things differently.

Myth: Marriages suffer once the kids are grown

Marriages “after children” tend to reset. Understand that child rearing has dominated the marriage for decades, and now they can revert back to focusing on their relationship and dating! In fact, these marriages are often closer since they have achieved an important landmark in life and withstood the test of time. Now they have time to engage in all those activities and hobbies that have been on the back burner. Marriages often become more romantic and may return to the earlier patterns of adventure seeking and carefree fun that was more typical of early courtship and dating.

How do siblings fare when big brother or sister hits the door?

Myth: Without their older siblings, most kids are lost

Most of the time, the younger siblings fare pretty well. In fact, they often come into their own and develop a new role within the family. Now that their older sibling no longer overshadows them, they can fully define their new identity, interests, and life direction. Naturally, they often receive much more time and attention from mom and dad than before. However, this can sometimes backfire. Greater scrutiny can cause more tension and conflict to come to the surface, especially if there were already underlying problems that have never been addressed.

Myth: Undergrads often return to find the family exactly the same

The family may seem very different to a returning student. When any family member leaves, the family must renegotiate the household roles. We revisit who the mediator will be, how decisions are now being made, and even the division of household chores. Left behind family members do tend to either become closer or more distant depending on how each family member behaves. Either way, “home” will be very different.

Myth: Younger siblings always have their own independent path

Watching your older sibling rocket into a new phase of life makes most of us consider our own next steps. Younger siblings who are close with their departing brother or sister embrace them even more. They are much more likely to emulate their older sibling’s fashion sense, political views, and career choices. They may even choose the same college. In fact, a study from Harvard University and the College Board found that 69% of younger siblings enrolled in the same type of college as their older siblings while 31% of younger siblings actually applied to the exact same institution. Surprisingly, about 20% of younger siblings went to the exact same college when it was time for their decision.

So, what can parents do for younger siblings left at home?

A Teachable Moment

Use this change in your family as a teachable moment. We always want to show our children that change is not necessarily a bad thing. More importantly, the changes that come in the life of a family are inevitable and can lead to wonderful new opportunities. Children need to see their parents approaching difficult or sad situations as something that is temporary and focus on the next exciting step for the future.

New Rituals of Connection

When a sibling leaves for college, the entire family is in state of redefinition. Using the new freedom of parents and the remaining siblings, the family can now embark on new family adventures, explore different hobbies together, and bond around a new family identity. Discover new restaurants, explore new travel destinations, try paintball, check out a new museum, or even have a “stay-cation” to finally enjoy a family night of baseball out at the ballpark. Families now have an opportunity to bond in an unprecedented way and try out new methods of connection. Maybe the departing older sibling wasn’t a baseball fan!

A Growing Circle

When the children begin to leave the nest, parents and kids have an opportunity to expand their social circle. Research shows that mom and dad often reconnect with their own siblings, extended family, and long lost friends at this important time. Younger siblings also have an opportunity to create a closer bond to their parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and community at large. Again, the family relationships realign and reset to encompass a community that may have been overlooked during the busy years of child rearing.

For More Information:

http://www.apa.org/monitor/apr03/pluses.aspx

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/09/19/research-suggests-relationship-between-siblings-college-enrollment-choice

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/galtime/college-bound-the-impact-on-the-siblings-left-behind_b_3721334.html

https://www.noodle.com/articles/helping-younger-siblings-cope-when-your-child-heads-to-college

Childhood Depression - Can Exercise Prevent Childhood Depression? - By Chris Gearing

Friday, August 08, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss how exercise can help prevent depression in your child - click here.

Parenting – How To Discipline Your Child Without Yelling or Spanking - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe how you can properly discipline your child without yelling or spanking - click here.

Spanking or emotional abuse through speaking can have a lifelong, devastating impact, especially on children below the age of 10.

Since many children still need discipline and clear boundaries, you must have other options available to discipline your child when you’ve lost your patience. Here are a few suggestions:

Take A Break

If your child has just acted our severely, you may want to put yourself in a time out first. Take a breath and slow down. Your mind will be clearer and you’ll make better decisions if you are calm and focused. Give yourself a chance to calm down for a few minutes before deciding how to discipline your child and potentially overreacting.

You’re The Model

Since your job as a parent is to teach your child how to manage their emotions, you need to make sure your voice is calm and your body behavior is relaxed. Next pick your words carefully and remember to speak respectfully to your child. This is a wonderful opportunity to teach your child how to speak to others without anger or contempt. Angry parents can be very scary and intimidating, and your child is soaking in every word and action from you.

Rewind and Slow Down

One of the best things you can teach your child is how to effectively understand and solve problems that frustrate and upset us. A wonderful way to teach them how to understand what happened is to walk back through what just happened and explain why they are being disciplined.

There are more effective ways to teach and discipline your child than spanking or yelling.

For instance, removal of privileges is a very effective punishment for most teenagers since it restricts their freedom, which is highly valued during these years.

Remember that every time your child needs to be disciplined, you have another opportunity to teach them the attitudes and behaviors necessary for a successful and happy life.

Source:

"Longitudinal Links between Father's and Mother's Harsh Verbal Discipline and Adolescents' Conduct Problems and Depressive Symptoms," by Ming-Te Wang and Sarah Kenny, in "Child Development," 9/13/13

Parenting - Is Yelling the New Spanking for American Parents? - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss the new trend of parents yelling instead of spanking their kids - click here.

Is yelling the new spanking for American parents? Many parents have been warned to not spank their children, so they have turned to yelling as a way to reach their child and correct bad behavior.

But new research suggests that yelling at your child, especially teenagers, can actually make them more resistant to change and better behavior.

Many of us do yell when we are overwhelmed by the moment, and we are often haunted by our words and actions afterward. Rather than resolving the problem and helping our child make a positive change, we make the problem much worse.

Children who are routinely yelled at tend to make one of three choices:

1.) They yell back, which often ends in disaster.

2.) They withdraw into stony silence with resentment brewing beneath the surface

3.) They become silent and anxious while magnifying what happened and the future consequences.

Yelling teaches your child that you are not in control of your emotions at that moment, and it makes them less likely to control their emotions in the future.

In addition, spanking and yelling can increase aggression and resentment, both physically and verbally. Severe yelling or emotional abuse through speaking can have a lifelong, devastating impact, especially on children below the age of 10. Please make sure to watch my next video on this topic – How To Discipline Your Child Without Yelling or Spanking.

Source:

"Longitudinal Links Between Father's and Mother's Harsh Verbal Discipline and Adolescents' Conduct Problems and Depressive Symptoms," by Ming-Te Wang and Sarah Kenny, in "Child Development," 9/13/13

Parenting - Is Spanking or Yelling A Better Way To Discipline Your Kids? - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discussing which discipline method is better - spanking or yelling? click here.

Violence - The Effects of Violent Movies on Children and Teens - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe some of the effects of movie violence on children and teens and how parents can limit violent movies and maintain their relationship with their child - click here.

Many parents are concerned about the findings just published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, linking violence in movies to higher levels of aggression and violent behavior. Recognizing that many children love violent movies, parents are wondering how to gauge which movies their kids should be watching or if their kids should be seeing violence at all!

State of Development

Be aware that adolescent brains, when compared to adult brains, are especially vulnerable to what they see, hear, and experience. They are still building their beliefs about the world, about other people, and about themselves. Always remember that your teenager’s brain will continue to unfold and develop until their mid-twenties.

External Influences

Neuroscientists warn us that by the time the brain reaches adolescence, brain development is heavily governed by external influences. What the adolescent brain sees, it encodes and internalizes. As parents, you want their movies to include appropriate themes and stories of empowerment, virtuous beliefs, courage & persistence, and age appropriate romances.

So, how can you keep your relationship with your child intact while also keeping your child away from violent movies?

Risk Factors

Violence from children and teens is often correlated with predictors including neglect or abuse at home, bullying at school, and serious mental illness. However, showing your child a violent movie does not mean that they will automatically become violent. There are hundreds of factors that keep children from turning to violence including a loving and supportive family, the demonstration of the appropriate use of firearms, and mental health counseling. Make sure that your child has all of the facts and fully understands the responsibilities and consequences of violence and gun use.

Just Say No

While it is always difficult to tell a child that they cannot see a movie that all their peers are seeing, you will thank yourself in the long run for holding the line if you believe that the movie has too much violence. “No” is a complete sentence and telling your child “no” is not an invitation for negotiation. Children and teens need compassionate, thoughtfully explained limits from their parents who are emotionally responsible. The best thing you can do is to draw those boundaries long before the trip to the movie theater, and make sure your child knows that violent movies will be fewer and far between.

Sources:

"Gun Violence In PG-13 Films Tops Levels In R-Rated Movies" in USA Today, 11/11/13

Pediatrics, The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatricians

"The Primal Teen" by Barbara Strauch

Violence - Your Children and Violence In The Movies - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss the recently published report from The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatricians about children and teens being influenced by violence in movies - click here.

Many parents are concerned about the findings just published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, linking violence in movies to higher levels of aggression and violent behavior.

Recognizing that many children love violent movies, parents are asking what effect can this movie violence have on their child?

Here are a few important points to keep in mind:

Weapons Effect

We do know that just seeing a weapon can increase levels of aggression and forceful behavior in certain people—what psychologists call the “weapon effect.” Studies clearly show that violence in movies can increase aggressive attitudes, values, and behavior.

Learning By Example

Watching an entire movie in which glamorous people you identify with or admire use guns may do several things: 1.) increase your comfort level with guns and gun violence, 2.) desensitize you to violent actions and gun violence, and 3.) decrease empathy and understanding for the victims of gun violence. Therefore as parents, it is advisable to limit your child’s exposure to gun violence in the movies.

Who To Watch

However, this finding does not mean that your child is going to automatically become violent if they are exposed to violence in the movies. There are hundreds of mitigating factors that would prevent them from becoming violent including a supportive family, the demonstration of the appropriate use of firearms, and the absence of significant mental health issues. The real vulnerability to violent imagery lies with children who are from neglectful or abusive families, who are bullied and marginalized at school, and who lack substantial psychological coping skills to deal with rejection and failure. These children often feel lost and the images of gun violence restore a sense of empowerment and control that is missing in their lives. These “at risk” kids are the ones we need to worry about.

Sources:

"Gun Violence In PG-13 Films Tops Levels In R-Rated Movies" in USA Today, 11/11/13

Pediatrics, The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatricians

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy - How Parents Can Help Their Emotionally Volatile Child - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing discuss how Dialectical Behavioral Therapy can help parents understand and work with their emotionally volatile children - click here.

Like the waves of a turbulent ocean, the world of negative emotions seems to ebb and flow with a disturbing lack of predictability. One day you can easily manage your emotions, but the next day everything seems to get to you. You find the insult in every comment from friends and family, and you just cannot seem to calm down.

Dr. Marsha Linehan recognized that biological vulnerabilities to high intensity emotions could create a difficult parental relationship early in life.

Well-intentioned parents do their best to match the intense communications of their children, but they often fall short with a child who lives with more intense emotions. Parental initiatives in discipline, organization, and performance that may have worked effortlessly with their other children fall flat with this child. Instead, this child may stubbornly resist change and compliance, further frustrating the parent.

In worst cases, the cycle between the frustrated parents and the emotional child can become highly toxic.

The child is unable to perform optimally at school and in extracurricular activities due to their intense emotions. Confused parents misinterpret this behavior as disobedience, apathy, manipulation, and defiance. The child is labeled as difficult and exhausting because the parent doesn’t know what to do!

These parents need to understand their child’s emotional states and use skills from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (or DBT) to help their children calm down, focus, and perform. They’ll be able to structure and properly work with their child so that they are successful at home and at school. Once they know how to communicate effectively with their child, the parent-child relationship will flourish.

If you or someone you know is having difficulty communicating with their child, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

The work of Dr. Marsha Linehan

"Doing Dialectical Behavior Therapy: A Practical Guide" by Kelly Koerner

Weight Loss - How You Can Help Your Child Lose Weight - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe how parents can help their children lose weight and live healthy - click here.

With child obesity rates climbing every year, many parents worry about their child being left behind.

They may sign them up for sport teams, summer camps, and even weight loss programs, but many teens and kids still struggle with their weight.

So, why do our children find it so difficult to manage their weight?

Images of Perfection

Previous generations of boys and girls have struggled with body image, but these issues are at an all time high. Our children are inundated with images of physical perfection especially with our celebrity culture. The demand for perfect bodies has grown worse over the past two decades leading to weight concerns in boys and girls as young as six years old. But channeling energy into appearance and away from normal developmental tasks can disrupt, if not completely sabotage, a child’s self esteem and ability to tolerate stress.

Helicopter Parents

The current generation of well-meaning parents are micro-managing their children's emotional and physical development. Being "ordinary" or just “okay” has lost its allure for too many of today's parents who insist on cushioning their children from the blows of reality. Frustration, rejection, and even failure may even be harder on the parents than it is on the kids. Parents project their own anxiety onto kids who need to deal with the consequences and solve problems on their own. Over protective parents can actually make children more anxious and likely to gain weight, and weight gain can be an unintentional consequence.

Sins of the Parents

Many mothers and fathers struggle with their own weight issues every single day. Children and teens often learn eating habits from home, and they may inherit their own weight issues from mom and dad.

Surging Hormones & Anxiety

Rates of teen anxiety and depression are at an all time high, so eating issues flourish when puberty hits and mood disorders descend. Many teens develop eating issues as a response to their depressed mood and anxious mind.

Parents, here’s what you can do to help your child:

Change Starts At Home

Since many kids learn eating habits at home, long-term change usually begins at the dinner table. Parents are especially influential on their children’s eating habits, so be mindful of what eating behaviors you are modeling. What you say and how you handle yourself emotionally and with food will set the standard for your child.

Learn The Facts

Most kids and teens don’t truly understand nutrition and positive eating habits. Make sure that they have all the information and understand the connection between what they eat and how it affects their bodies and their lives. Teach your child or teen what is good to eat and how to stay away from foods that will pack on the weight.

Focus On the Goal

Encourage positive attitudes toward your child's new self-image. Do not shame or embarrass them, but try to focus on the new body you can build together. Keep the focus on the goal of a healthy weight instead of their current situation.

Mind-Food-Body Link

For many kids, food is an escape from anxiety and stress. They can temporarily distract themselves from their problems with a sugary snack or calorie-laden drink. Try to coach your child about how to deal with negative emotions by talking them out instead of distracting with food. Remind them that setbacks are temporary and that they can cope with whatever they are facing. Emotionally resilient people don’t use food as a way to calm down or distract themselves.

Eating issues can lead to very serious eating disorders.

If you are worried about someone you know, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

The work of Dr. Martin Seligman

"Generation Me" by Jean Twenge

“The Beck Diet Solution” by Judith Beck, Ph.D.

Childhood Depression - How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Can Help Your Child - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe how Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help your child or teen defeat depression - click here.

One of the saddest facts of modern psychology is the soaring rates of childhood depression and anxiety.

Between 1987 and 1997, the number of kids and teens on mood altering drugs tripled. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for our young people from ages 15 to 24. Most parents couldn’t image that their child’s sadness could ultimately become something that threatens their lives.

The good news is that clinical depression and anxiety are highly treatable in children.

Cognitive behavioral therapy for children is designed to equip them with the tools to help them change their inaccurate, negative thinking and redefine their worldview. Whether negative thinking is from tough times at school or at home or maybe even caused by genetics, cognitive therapy can help them convert negative feelings into realistic, accurate, and optimistic thoughts.

According to the founder of Cognitive therapy, Dr. Aaron Beck, how your child thinks during times of adversity and sadness can determine whether or not they will have a depressive outlook for the rest of their life. Children often take the most catastrophic view of things where problems are permanent, pervasive, and entirely their fault. They often conclude that there is nothing they could do to improve things. Psychologists call this type of hopeless, defeated thinking “learned helplessness.” Learned helplessness becomes a defining philosophy and these children stop trying to change their lives. They give up and give in to negative thinking.

Cognitive therapists help your child see events more accurately and effectively.

They teach kids that adversity is usually short-term and solvable. Many children learn that they can change the outcome of events and setbacks are not always their fault. They learn how to overcome obstacles that seem unfair, unpredictable, and unavoidable.

Cognitive behavioral therapy for children has some of the highest success rates in the industry, and CBT can help inoculate your child against future depression and anxiety.

Since 84% of depressed kids also experience depression as an adult, learning these skills early in life will equip them with the tools for a highly successful and happy future.

Sources:

"The Optimistic Child" by Dr. Martin Seligman

"Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders, Second Edition" by Robert Leahy, Stephen Holland, and Lata McGinn


Recent Posts


Tags


Archive