Therapy That Works...

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.

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

Growing Kids Strong - The Wrong Way To Rescue - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia describe some of the most common ways that parents try to comfort their kids and the possible long term emotional consequences - click here.

Every parent has done it. When our children experience anxiety, anger, or sadness, we swoop in to save the day and hopefully make them feel better. However, many parents use strategies that can actually increase negative feelings and set their children up for a lifetime of pessimistic thoughts, anxiety, and depression.

Here are three very common, but potentially damaging ways to rescue your child from negative feelings:

“I Think You’re The Best”

If they think they’re stupid, we say they’re smart. If they sat out the big game on the bench, we say they were the best athlete on the field. Sometimes, we lie to our kids and present them with a false reality to make them feel better in the moment. However, we aren’t fooling anyone, especially our kids. They know what we’re doing and they tend to resent it. Now they not only feel sad or angry about the situation, they’re mad at you too. We should tell our kids the truth and hopefully turn a temporary frustration into an opportunity for masterful action. If they failed the test, encourage them to study harder next time and you can work on practice problems together. It’s not that they’re stupid, it’s that they have a temporary problem with an easy solution.

“Let Me Do It For You”

We’ve all felt the urge to swoop in and help our kids work on a project, especially if they are having a difficult time. However, some parents go too far and try to make their child feel better by taking over the project entirely. The project may turn out wonderfully, but you’ve planted a dangerous belief in your child’s mind - “If I start to get frustrated or bored, give up and let someone else do it for me.” There is nothing wrong with your child experiencing negative feelings. The important thing is how they think about and recover from setbacks and frustrations. Instead of taking over the project, try to talk to your child about what they are feeling and why they feel that way. Talking to your child about how to overcome failure and bounce back from frustration is one of the best things you can ever teach them.

“Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself”

One of the most important things you can teach your child is how to frame and interpret events in their life. Most parents don’t know what to say to their kids when they are upset, and they often use temporary distractions to make their child feel better in the moment. But ice cream and video games can only go so far. Parents need to get in the habit of disputing their child’s negative thoughts. They need to teach their child how to fight back against the negative thoughts that can take over their mind. A failing grade becomes “I’m just a dummy.” A failed social situation becomes “I’m a loser.” Teach your child that their problems are temporary and almost always have an easy solution.

Many children are their own worst enemy and regularly tear themselves down with negative thinking. Pessimistic children tend to give up and let life pass them by. Interventions, like these cognitive techniques, early in life can prepare your child for a life of optimism and perseverance. Success usually requires hard work and dedication, and your child will be ready to bounce back from any set back and overcome any obstacle.

Source:

"The Optimistic Child" by Dr. Martin Seligman

Growing Kids Strong - The Dangers of ADD & ADHD - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describes the dangers of ADD & ADHD for your child and the signs you can watch out for - click here.

Attention issues can compromise even the brightest children and sabotage the most promising of lives.

According to the CDC, eleven percent of elementary school children and nineteen percent of boys in high school have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. The New York Times reports that around six and a half million children have been diagnosed with ADHD at some point in their lives. That is a 53% increase over the past decade!

Since ADD and ADHD are so prevalent, it is important to have your child complete a thorough evaluation with an experienced psychologist. ADD and ADHD are very treatable with proper medicine and behavioral interventions.

But if the symptoms are not controlled, ADD and ADHD can have dramatic effects on your child’s life including:

  • Lower performance at school
  • Difficulty keeping a good job
  • Struggles with impulsivity and decision-making
  • Problems with concentration and performance
  • An inability to develop mature judgment and self-control
  • Higher rates of depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder over the lifespan

Sources:

The U.S. Center for Disease Control

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (www.ADAA.org)

“One in 10 U.S. Kids Diagnosed With ADHD” featured in US News and World Report (http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2013/04/01/one-in-10-us-kids-diagnosed-with-adhd-report)

Social Skills - What is Asperger’s Syndrome? - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describes what Asperger Syndrome is and signs you should watch out for in your child - click here.

Many people confuse Asperger’s Syndrome with Autism, but they are actually very different.

Children with Asperger’s often are socially aware, but they lack vital skills to create and sustain long-lasting relationships. These children may seem socially awkward to others, and they find relationships to be confusing and uncomfortable. Peers can seem rejecting and difficult to decipher and over time, they may stop trying to make and sustain friends.

Kids with Asperger’s show no delays in language or intellectual development but they often struggle socially. When they are approaching adolescence, the social deficits may compound and the young teenager may become acutely aware of their difficulty to think socially. Depression and anxiety can flourish in a mind that is chronically confused and frustrated by social problems that it cannot solve.

According to the psychologist, Dr. Susan Williams White, some of the most common social skills deficits in Asperger kids include the following:

  • Problems indentifying and correctly interpreting my own thoughts and feelings
  • Inability to understand the emotions, motivations, and reactions of others
  • Difficulty predicting how others will act or respond to actions
  • Failure to provide context or background for conversations and stories
  • Difficulty deciphering or completely miss nonverbal communications such as eye contact, tactile contact, and facial expressions
  • Rigidly about everyone following the rules of the situation
  • Unintentionally blunt in communications even to the point of being offensive
  • Failure to notice and process the emotions and cues of those around them

If you think that you or someone you know may have Asperger’s Syndrome, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist. They can help with social thinking and how to communicate more effectively with others.

Sources:

"Social SKills Training For Children With Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism" by Susan Williams White

The work of Michelle Garcia Winner, M.A., CCC-SLP

Growing Kids Strong - Childhood Anxiety, Part 2 - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe what to watch out for if you are worried that your child may have an anxiety problem - click here.

Our children experience anxiety early in their lives.

Normal events like surrendering a toy, losing a game, or saying goodbye to a beloved grandparent teach our kids to experience and resolve anxiety. Resilience and a positive attitude should equip our children to weather regular life events. However, every year childhood anxiety is becoming more widespread and more extreme. Children are becoming more fearful and more anxious at home, on the playground, and in the classroom.

Anxious emotions can become the defining influence on your child’s worldview. In some cases, anxiety can become extreme and even a debilitating problem. Anxious children begin to narrow their worlds by refusing to participate in activities like playing with friends, sleepovers, school events, and visits with their extended family. As time goes on, they become more fearful, avoidant, and justifying of their anxious worldview.

Most children experience anxiety like a slowly building wave that crashes down and then resolves quickly. Specific fears of things like storms, animals, and strangers may come and go with age, but a child’s confidence and resilience should increase as the years go by. By the time they enter school, children should be able to soothe themselves independently, govern their behavior responsibly, and listen attentively to their teachers without any feelings of anxiety.

Anxious children do everything they can to avoid activities or situations that make them anxious.

If you are worried that your child may have an anxiety issue, here are some symptoms to look for:

  • Intense fears about the safety of parents and siblings
  • Refusal to go to school
  • Regular complaints of physical aches and pains
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Recurrent nightmares
  • Intense fears about a specific object or situation
  • Performance fears about recess or in the classroom
  • Refusal to participate in activities with peers
  • Constant worrying
  • Intrusive thoughts of potentially harmful situations
  • Inability to be comforted or calmed by others

Sources:

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (www.ADAA.org)

"The Optimistic Child" by Dr. Martin Seligman

Growing Kids Strong - Childhood Anxiety - By Chris Gearing

Monday, March 25, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe the epidemic of childhood anxiety and how it could compromise your child's future - click here.

Why do kids feel so much more anxious today than they did in previous generations?

Psychologists are now seeing record numbers of children who are overly worried, panicked, and compromised by anxiety. In fact, clinical depression now strikes our children a full decade sooner than it did a generation ago. Childhood should be a time of enchantment, exploration, and play! Our kids should have no fear and endlessly dream of the better tomorrows that they will soon experience. So, why are we seeing record rates of childhood anxiety and depression?

Contagious Negativity:

We live in a culture that focuses on the negative. We see this trend in many areas like the pessimism in the nightly news or the angry bully on the playground. All of us, young and old, absorb the thinking style and emotions of the people around us. Pessimistic news travels quickly and if children are inundated with negativity, their explanatory view will increasingly skew to the anxious.

Learning To Fail:

We shower our children with recognition and praise when they do well. That’s the easy part, and it’s the fun part for us. Many parents forget the enormous value found in teaching children how to handle and overcome failure. Rebounding after setbacks, resolving disappointments, and moving past frustrations effectively allows us to regain a sense of control, self-efficacy, and purpose. Kids who can rebound psychologically are much less anxious since they keep their expectations realistic and believe in their ability to solve the problem.

Outcomes Cannot Be Controlled:

Winning is not something that can be controlled. In fact, effort does not always guarantee the outcome we had hoped for. It is important that children learn the complex relationship between effort and outcome. Learning that their hard work and good intentions are more important than any outcome is vital for managing anxiety.

Sins of the Parents:

If a child is reared in an anxious household, their view of the world can become increasingly pessimistic and dark. They often emulate their parent’s explanatory style and view of the world. Their parents teach them to think in an anxious manner and how to always be waiting for the next problem. Constant vigilance can create more anxiety, and a negative cycle can be set up in the child’s mind. Childhood is the time when we learn to control our anxiety. If their parents aren’t fully in control of their own thoughts and emotions, it will be difficult for the child to learn and develop their own emotional regulation skills.

Source:

"The Optimistic Child" by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

Social Skills - Three Types of Social Deficits - By Chris Gearing

Monday, March 18, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing explain the three types of social deficits in children and how they can affect your child at school - click here.

One of the most important skills for your child to learn is how to relate effectively to others.

Success at school, with friends, with boyfriends and girlfriends, and even in their future jobs will rely heavily on their ability to accurately read and interpret social cues. When a child misinterprets someone else’s behavior, they can’t respond appropriately and they’ll have difficulty decoding social situations. When they reach high school, social interactions will only get more intense and complex, and your child may fall behind their peers.

Many kids with social skills issues know that they struggle with peers and maintaining friendships, and these challenges early in life can have a profound impact on how they feel about themselves. We live in a world made up of relationships and the ability to communicate effectively with others is an essential life skill.

Social skills challenges are usually different for each child. The work of Dr. Frank Gresham describes three distinct types of social deficits:

Skills Acquisition Deficits:

Children lack the specific steps and strategies for successful social interactions, and they often don’t know what they need to change.

Performance Deficits:

Children know how to interact successfully with friends and peers, but they fail to use the skills at appropriate times or they may be too anxious to seize social opportunities.

Fluency Deficits:

Children understand the strategies and timing of social interactions, but their application of skills in social situations is awkward or inappropriate.

Growing Kids Strong - Introducing Self-Efficacy - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe the concept of Self-Efficacy and why it's important for your child's future success - click here.

We all hope that our children will have a safe and happy childhood.

As parents, many of us spend much our lives and most of our resources trying to make sure our children’s lives are as easy as possible. We want them to have the advantages in life that may have eluded us. However, we know that our children will inevitably encounter adversities in life. It’s important to find those key skills that will equip your child to handle anything they encounter. You want your child to view challenges as surmountable and survivable rather than as a defining negative event.

One of those key skills is a concept called self-efficacy, a term created in the 1970’s by Albert Bandura.

Self-efficacy describes your child’s ability to see themselves as capable of organizing, planning, and executing the necessary steps to succeed in any situation. They will feel empowered and confident in their ability to creatively solve problems. They don’t need any external help – they have the internal resources to generate solutions. When children look to external factors either for help or to blame for their helplessness, they can fall into scattered thinking and indecisiveness. This kind of thinking can knock even the most promising life off track. The best part of self-efficacy is that all of the courage, self-reliance, stamina, self-assuredness, and tenacity will continue to flow from their basic belief in their own self-efficacy.

As a result, unpredictable situations will not frighten your child and new environmental challenges no longer cause anxiety. Instead, novelty is often greeted with enthusiasm and new, unknown opportunities are met with resolve and singular focus. They stand tall since they are convinced that they have the resources to handle any challenge.

Sources:

Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84(2), 191-215.

"The Optimistic Child" by Martin Seligman, Ph.D.

Growing Kids Strong - Childhood Depression - By Chris Gearing

Monday, March 11, 2013

Watch Dr. Sylvia describe childhood depression and how it can affect your child's future success - click here.

Childhood depression can be an overwhelming concern for parents and educators who witness young children retreating into depressive, anxious behaviors.

Often our children are stuck in full clinical depression before we really understand what is happening. Even though we may have experienced depression ourselves or had a friend or family member that was depressed, it is painful and confusing to see our child developing a full scale mood disorder. Unfortunately, children cannot always articulate their thoughts and feelings. They are unable to tell us why they are so sad. It’s important that you educate yourself on the signs of childhood depression to prevent it from damaging your child’s life.

There are several reasons why childhood depression needs to be taken so seriously:

Life-Long Beliefs:

In childhood, most of us are learning how to interpret our environment and to be as accurate as possible. During this critical point in life, kids are creating belief systems and coping skills based on what they are experiencing in the moment. If life is regularly tumultuous, if there is severe anxiety due to trauma or loss, or if there is an underlying endogenous depression that goes unaddressed, the child may not accurately develop the explanatory view. Such inaccurate beliefs can last a lifetime and cause tremendous heartache.

Misinterpreted Behaviors:

With an underlying endogenous depression, a young child can be overwhelmed with their crushing negative beliefs. Many adults who developed depression as kids report that the world turned dark and gray at an early age. Parents can misinterpret such suffering as normal shyness or withdrawal. Depression robs a child of the chance to develop better coping skills and to face developmental challenges.

Social and Academic Withdrawal:

Children with depression often feel tired and depleted, and they are reluctant to engage with their peers socially. School avoidance is another common problem for kids with depression. If your brain is sad, it is difficult to focus and deal with all of the social and academic pressures of the classroom.

Permanent Labels:

Kids are already quick to label their peers, and depressed children tend to act grumpy and avoidant. Unfortunately, labels can become self-fulfilling prophecies as the child struggles with depression and how they feel about themselves. The negative labels become a familiar identity and children are prone to increasingly shut out their peers in an effort to avoid further criticism.

Now if you are concerned about a child, here are some signs to watch out for:

  • Feeling persistently sad
  • Talking about suicide or being better off dead
  • Rapid mood swings such as becoming irritable all of a sudden
  • Showing a marked deterioration in academics or home life
  • Attempting to avoid school by making up illnesses or visiting the school nurse too regularly
  • Stopping previously fun activities or no longer seeing friends
  • Drug or alcohol abuse

Childhood and adolescent depression are very serious. If you are worried about you or someone you know, please seek the assistance of a clinical psychologist.

Sources:

"The Optimistic Child" by Dr. Martin Seligman

The National Alliance on Mental Illness website (www.nami.org)


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