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Mother Nature’s Parenting Tips

I have always been an observer. This tendency doesn’t stop with people-watching. As a child, I was fortunate enough to live near a nationally-ranked well-funded zoo. For a period of time, I was certain zoology was the field for me. I remember standing gape-mouthed at my local zoo as young gorillas pulled off impressive gymnastic-quality feats and played pranks on their family members. I remember the awe and joy I felt as a mama bear and her little one did bonafide underwater handstands, purple padded feet in the air, just for the fun of it. The animals, it seemed, took genuine delight in their play. Nature is on to something. Our physical world is full of lessons. 

Three Parenting Tips from Mother Nature

1. Get them moving.

Just ahead of May’s mental health awareness month, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently released a statement aptly titled, “To Grow Up Healthy, Children Need to Sit Less and Play More.” The title says it all really. Children are meant to move just like the vast majority of nature’s fauna. With so many sedentary activities that are full of tempting lights and binging noises, both kids and adults are struggling with inactivity, particularly the screen time takeover. It’s not good for us. And, while I certainly don’t want to discourage organized sports or scheduled workouts, natural movement is also important– movement that occurs throughout the day, not just 3 times a week for an hour.

If you see your child struggling with coordination or avoiding certain kinds of movement-based play, consider talking to an expert. They could benefit from pediatric occupational therapy. If it’s a matter of your child simply preferring the couch to the swing in the backyard, try some new strategies and make movement a family affair.

2. Throw caution to the wind.

I think back to the animals I watched in the zoo. Those gorillas and polar bears were jumping in the water, rolling in the dirt, and making a mess of things while exploring their environment. Adults swooped in to help only when it was really needed. Certainly these little ones didn’t experience their caregivers as stepping in regularly with messages of caution. No. In fact, baby animals know when their parents are serious about being careful, because they only caution when it’s really needed. Children are supposed to be messy climbing machines. That’s why your two-year-old wants to get on top of the table and doesn’t hold back in the muddle puddles.

There’s literally stuff in dirt that helps our mental and physical health. I’m not making that up. And the kind of movement that children engage in in nature– climbing  trees, digging in the creek bed, splashing through the rain– those kinds of things support coordination and a sense of confidence that comes with mastery. We’ve got to get out of the way. I’m not saying there should be no rules. Surely it can be ok to let them get dirty and to let them try new physical feats from time to time though. Intervene when it’s needed, just like mama gorilla, and catch yourself the next time you say “Be careful” to your child. Was it really necessary?

3. Be one with nature.

Well, of course, Mother Nature encourages this one. Nature in and of itself is both predictable and changing, mundane and awe-inspiring. Being a quiet observer can certainly teach a child a lot about mindfulness and about how the bigger world works. Watching those gorillas all those years ago, I learned about family hierarchies and what unfiltered joy looks like. Watching the polar bears, I saw authentic mother’s love. In the trail of ants in my backyard, my children see perseverance and structure. In the quail families hiding in the weeds, they see loyalty and protectiveness. It turns out that nature is good for our mental health. Forest bathing, that is surrounding ourselves with trees leads us to be happier and healthier. Even just looking at pictures of trees (with or without leaves) leads to improved outcomes. Get your children outside!   Perhaps you’ll notice an immediate improvement in their mood.

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

 

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An Attitude of Gratitude for the Whole Family

Halloween is over and November has arrived. With it comes cooler days, longer nights and the winter holiday season rapidly approaching. This time of year, many of us struggle with feeling there is too much to do and too little time! We may have the desire to have a joyful, relaxed approach to the holidays, yet find ourselves feeling stressed, overwhelmed and even Grinch-like-irritable. If you’re looking for ways to embrace the holiday season with a deeper feeling of joy and connection consider a gratitude practice. 

Research on gratitude shows that people who practice gratitude are happier. How does it work? Basically it’s a way of re-focusing our attention.

Gratitude supports us to focus on what we have, rather than getting stuck on comparisons to others or on what we think might make us happy at some point in the future. 

There are many ways to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for both children and adults, including writing a thank you note to someone who has contributed positively to your life or keeping a gratitude journal. This year I would like to recommend a family activity. 

A Family Attitude of Gratitude… In a Jar!

Step One: Get your supplies together. As a family, decide on some sort of container to which you’ll all be adding slips of paper for the next few weeks. Gather some small pieces of paper or post-it notes.

Step Two: Find a spot. The home for your gratitude jar should be very visible and accessible to all so that each family member can join in.

Step Three: Choose your time frame. Pick a date to start (maybe Thanksgiving) and a date to end (perhaps the last day of Hanukkah or Christmas day).

Step Four: Let the attitude of gratitude commence. Encourage all family members to write down daily something they are grateful for and why. Consider and encourage writing things you are grateful for that happen within your family. For example, I was grateful when Jimmy offered to load the dishwasher without being asked BECAUSE it gave me a few moments to take a deep breath and relax. On the agreed upon last day, take time to read the gratitude notes out loud as a family. 

Step Five Enjoy. Take a deep breath and notice how you feel!

 

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written By: Navneet Lahti, Wellness Director at Intuition Wellness Center

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Let Them Play (and Get Out of the Way)!

Child-Directed Play

Child-Directed PlayWhen you’re a busy parent or caregiver with errands to run, mouths to feed, and work to do, allowing for time for play might seem pretty low on the priority list. In fact, these days play often has to be scheduled to ensure it happens. As someone who spends a good amount of my work day attempting to be fully present with others, it’s amazing to me how easy it is to get caught up in the daily whirlwind in my personal life. When I’m in a particularly aware space, I can catch myself turning every activity into a goal-directed one. Even play time with my kids can evolve into a very time-limited and rushed flurry of lego-building and board games. In those moments, I tend to do a lot of directing. It allows me to get onto my next to-do item, but these generally aren’t my shiniest parenting moments.

There’s a time and place for that sort of play. Structured and goal-directed play isn’t inherently bad. For example, competitive games, like Uno are loads of fun. Crafting with a specific “product” or goal in mind is also satisfying for many. But the play that this generation of kids is especially losing out on is the unstructured kind. The kind of play where a child gets to be spontaneous and creative, exploratory and in charge. The kind that occurs just for the sake of having fun with no planned product in mind except that of their own imagination. And trust me when I say that losing unstructured child-directed play is a big problem. Our over-scheduled kids are on the front lines of a nationwide anxiety epidemic, while child-directed play has so many critical benefits (motor skills/coordination, self concept, and social skills, to name just a few).

Assume you’re being invited in and that you’re making an effort to create space for non-competitive, non-directive play, here’s a few tips to get you started:

Three Tips for Getting Out of the Way of a Kid’s Play

  1. Pretend You’re a (Play) House Guest. When you’re a new guest in someone else’s house, you don’t just bulldoze your way through a visit. Instead, you would typically use your best manners, observe whether others take off their shoes at the door, politely ask for a drink of water if it’s not offered, etc. Think of yourself as a guest in your child’s play. Don’t just help yourself to what’s in the fridge. Ask how they want you to play if they don’t tell you first. Better yet, observe them in their play for a bit before getting involved.
  2. Allow for Repetitive Play. Look… if you’re going to be a good playmate, you simply have to stop putting a kibosh on kiddo playing out the same thing over and over. Do you remember when your four-year-old requested that you read the story of “The Little Red Hen” again? For the six bazillionth time in a week? That’s developmentally appropriate for young children. Personally, I conceptualize that sort of repetitive play as an attempt at mastery– a signal to me that I ought to stay out of the way until they’ve resolved the issue. It’s tempting to insist on something different because YOU are getting bored of it. Ultimately though, if you let your child engage in that repetitive play enough, she’s likely to move on eventually.
  3. Get Over your Savior Complex. Many in our culture have misinterpreted boredom as signaling something negative is happening— that our child needs more activities, more things to accomplish. But let me clear up that confusion. Being bored is OK. Some even tout it as a gift. From boredom comes the best kind of creativity and spontaneity. Please stop rescuing your child each time he or she complains of boredom. Instead, say “Huh. I wonder what you’ll do about that?” Expect a bit of resistance if your child isn’t used to that sort of response. I can almost guarantee though that if you suggest a chore as an activity, they’ll find their own boredom solution.

Sometimes having a designated time and space for play can be the best answer to getting into a play rhythm. While there’s lots of options, some of our favorites are right here in house:

REGISTER NOW: Friday Night Family Yoga at Intuition Wellness Center.

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written By: Brandy Baker, PsyD; Co-Founder; Clinical Psychologist

 

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ASD Girls: It is only a special part of who you are

ASD, Autism Awareness,

As a sister to a person with autism, I feel very fortunate to be able to write this post during the month of April—Autism Awareness Month! Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is classified as a neurodevelopmental disability, meaning symptoms appear during early developmental periods (18 months- 6 years). The most common characteristics of autism include social communication difficulties. The prevalence has nearly doubled since 2004, shifting rates from 1 in 125 children in the United States to 1 in 68, and 1 in 54 among boys. While there is no known single cause of ASD, research suggests early supports and services improve long-term outcomes.

National Autism Awareness Month, first developed by the Autism Society, was created to spread awareness of the condition. Since then it has expanded to promote acceptance, appreciation, and inclusion. Autism Awareness Month has been celebrated in many ways, including #LIUB (i.e., light it up blue), by wearing blue, or using blue outdoor lightbulbs.

At the Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in November, 2017, participants focused on particular challenges for women and girls with disabilities. This year, the United Nations made a commitment to empowerment. Namely, the UN is discussing forms of discrimination and other unique barriers among women and girls with ASD with key stakeholders and policy makers. Some examples of these barriers include access to education, lower rates of employment, greater likelihood of physical and psychological violence, and inadequate sexual and reproductive health services.

Emily, 23, describes her own perspective on discrimination:

“Due to my autism diagnosis, I felt discriminated against myself in employment, and that made me feel like an outsider. I felt like I was a freak because of my autism. Eventually, I learned that everyone should be protected from discrimination in the work force. We are all created equally, regardless of our weaknesses, disabilities, race, religion, sexual preferences, etc. Had I not realized that, I probably never would have gotten where I am today – working two part-time jobs.”

When asked about practical ways people without ASD can empower girls on the spectrum, Emily identified the struggles of communication with “neurotypicals,” and offered some advice:

“Though acquiring social graces always seems to have their obstacles, no one should give up so easily. People often believe that if you’re different from them, they wouldn’t accept you as a friend. Discrimination, especially against a person with a mental disorder, is one of the greatest challenges that we face. As hurtful and cruel as it may be, it happens. Don’t let doubts, fear, and uncertainty get in the way. Autism doesn’t define you as a person; it is only a special part of who you are.”

Spread Autism Awareness:

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting pediatric professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written by: Megan Beardmore, MA; PhD Candidate in School Psychology

 

 

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Dr. Kacey Greening is Getting Back to Her Roots


It’s hard to find somebody as dedicated to learning as Dr. Kacey Greening. After years of working primarily in college counseling centers, Dr. Greening made a bold move and re-routed her career path back to her original plan: working with kids and families.

And the timing couldn’t have been better. Just as Dr. Greening was launching back into pediatric work, Intuition Wellness Center opened a position for a new clinical team member. Her thoughtful approach to her work, gentle presence, positive attitude, and devotion to ongoing training are just a few of the many ways that Dr. Greening won over the Intuition Wellness team. There’s also a lot more about Dr. Greening to like…

Who is Dr. Kacey Greening?!?

Where are you originally from? I was born and raised in Chillicothe, Ohio.

Favorite vegetable: Carrots.

What do you do to relax? Some of my favorite ways to relax are hiking and mountain biking, watching college basketball, and spending time with my husband, family, and friends. I also love to cook and bake.

Name an unusual thing that you know how to do that many others do not: I grew up watching my dad compete at his Archery club so I learned how to shoot a bow. It’s a lot of fun and a great stress reliever.

Name a guilty pleasure: Watching my favorite Netflix reruns.

What’s a professional topic that you get especially excited about? I’m a big believer in self-compassion. I practice it daily, many times a day! My hope is that in being kind towards myself it will encourage people to be kinder to themselves too.

What led you to decide on joining the Intuition Wellness team? Working with kids, young adults, and families has been a passion of mine since I started working in this field. Intuition’s mission to inspire others to live in health and joy is consistent with my own philosophy, and I wanted to be on a team with people who share my values. Another key factor that led to me joining the team at Intuition is my colleagues. When I was getting to know the Intuition team, I instantly felt a warmth and a kindness that put me at ease. I was also impressed by their commitment to continued growth and quality services. I remember thinking that Intuition was a work environment where I would be supported and challenged to grow, while also being able to offer support and challenge others to grow.

What if someone is feeling nervous about coming in to see you? Is there something they should know? My personal approach is that everyone needs some support and help from time to time, myself included. Engaging in counseling can be a wonderful form of self-care. I know that for many people reaching out for help, it can take a lot of strength and courage, which is one of the reasons why Positive Psychology is so important to me. I think being mindful of pleasant and meaningful experiences are just as important as being mindful of the areas we’re struggling in. When I provide counseling, I not only try to be attentive to the areas where a person feels stuck, but I try to use their strengths to problem solve and create healthy changes.

What’s something that parents and kids might like to know about your approach? I work very hard to find helpful strategies that are consistent with client and family values. I enjoy using art, therapeutic games, and creative approaches to identify client and family needs and to build a trusting relationship. I also incorporate skills from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Positive Psychology, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Many of the things that are important to me as a person also come through in the therapy room, such as kindness, creativity, and collaboration. When I work with clients and families, I see my role as being on the journey with them and collaborating with them to decide what’s best for them.

For more updates on Intuition Wellness Center’s services and programs, subscribe to our newsletter or pop on over to our Facebook page for lots more great stuff.

At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written by: Dr. Brandy Baker, PsyD and Dr. Kacey Greening, PsyD

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Screen Time Takeover: 3 Tips for Busy Families

A little over 6 years ago, I had just reluctantly traded in my basic flip phone for a smartphone. Now? My smartphone practically feels like an appendage. Digital advancements are happening lightening fast. As a result, research on the effects of screen time is struggling to keep pace. This has left most families feeling uninformed and overwhelmed when it comes to creating screen time boundaries.

The truth of the matter is that none of us could have prepared for the epidemic that is screen time in the 21st century. Whether it’s playing a mindless online game, following social media, coordinating a multiplayer video game, or streaming video, there’s something for pretty much everyone. But parents simply don’t have a personal reference point for what it’s like to be a kid in this digital era. None of us were tweens or teens connecting through social media in quite the way that our children are. We didn’t have such instant access to the huge variety of media like children do now.

If you’re like me and other parents, you’ve probably had some desperate moments in search of answers around screen time limits. Perhaps you’ve found yourself asking some of the following questions: what kind of screen time should we be allowing and when? Is it ok to let my child play video games before or between homework assignments? How do I get my kid to get up off the couch? What can I do to get my kid off her phone? How violent is too violent?

While what’s best for your family won’t be the perfect balance for all, there’s a few basic strategies that many families seem to find pretty helpful.

Tips for Battling Screen Time Takeover
  1. Ditch the 2-minute warnings.

    In a recent small study of families with young children, researchers evaluated transitions away from technology (computer, tv, tablets, etc). They determined that the hardest transitions were most commonly associated with the parent giving a “two-minute warning” before ending screen time. Shocking, I know! When the end of screen time was part of a regular routine, it was met with less resistance.  For example, if your kiddo knows that the iPad always goes off once breakfast is ready, then they will be much less likely to resist this transition. Natural endings as transitions were also more successful. For instance, if screen time is stopped at the end of a TV show or after your child has reached the next level in a video game, they will tend to respond more positively than stopping midway through.

  2. Watch with the kids.

    Simply put, engage in the media actively together. For very young children, this can help prevent the language delays associated with screen time. We know that when TV is on, even if it’s just as background noise, families tend to have fewer verbal exchanges a which leads to smaller vocabularies. It’s better to make it an activity with a set beginning and ending that turns it into a springboard for more conversation. That is, use it to develop a common language together that you can reference in later interactions. With planning, you can even use it as a subtle lesson that parallels a situation that your child is working on mastering.

  3. Invest in an alarm clock.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard teens, tweens and parents say that they keep their smartphone in their bedrooms next to them because they rely on it for the alarm clock. It’s a buzzing and binging little temptation that rarely can be resisted, even in the wee hours of the night and many are getting less sleep than they should as a direct result of engaging in late night screen time. I speak from the experience of having had many kids confess in my office when I say that lots of kids aren’t telling their parents when they’re doing this. Make screens inconvenient. Invest in an alarm clock for your teen and make it a practice to dock the phone out of sight at night at least an hour before bedtime. Better yet, as a family, make a commitment to keep all screens out of the bedroom.

This screen time takeover is something that impacts all of us. The battle is ongoing. I’ve identified several moments when I know for certain that it’s impacted my ability to be a present parent. Many other parents report the same. Much of what I’ve learned, came not just from extensive reading on the subject, but also from talking to other parents and trial and error. I encourage you to do the same.

Learn about Intuition Wellness Center’s next Parents’ Heart-to-Heart Series and talk to the experts

Receive 20 FREE STRATEGIES FOR BATTLING SCREEN TIME TAKEOVER Right Now

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting pediatric professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written by: Dr. Brandy Baker, Clinical & Training Director; Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash.

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7 Better Ways to Bolster Your Child’s Self-Esteem

I’ve seen it time and time again. A desperate parent tells me that they don’t understand why their child is struggling with low self-esteem. This is despite the fact that they are able to name many wonderful things about their child and are constantly showering their child with praise.

Here’s the trouble: praising a child regularly and in non-specific ways simply does not lead to children who are more secure and self-assured. In actuality, a child who is often praised may become dependent on others’ evaluations of them as evidence of their value. In some cases, they may feel like a complete imposter— as if others are misjudging their ability.

7 Better Ways to Bolster Your Child’s Self-Esteem:

  1. Be sincere with praise. When you do praise, hand it out sparingly and honestly and focus on effort (think process, not product). This will give it more meaning in the child’s eyes.
  2. Assign household tasks and chores. By doing so, the message you give is “we trust you to do important tasks and you have a crucial role in the functioning of the family.”
  3. Allow for child-directed time. If screens are turned off and a child is given free time with regularity, the child will naturally work on gaining or proving mastery over a challenging situation.
  4. Include them in family decisions. Ask them for their opinion when it’s age-appropriate, such as which of the two dinner options they suggest or which curtains they prefer for the living room. They’ll appreciate that their opinion is valued.
  5. Avoid comparing to others. Drawing comparisons between your child and their peers, siblings and anyone for that matter is a delicate matter that sets them up to feel as though they are valued only when better than others. It’s better to teach them to use themselves as the baseline comparison.
  6. Be constructive. If your child does something you don’t like, avoid focusing on the negative and, instead, simply tell them what you would like them to do instead next time.
  7. Encourage interests. Seeking out opportunities to cultivate your child’s talents and interests demonstrates to them that their uniqueness is important and allows for them to further develop competencies.

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. If you think you need some extra support, call us. We offer parent groups and other supportive services. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written By: Brandy Baker, PsyD

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Kids’ Self Care: How sick is too sick?

On my graduation day from high school, a good friend was given a fancy certificate for maintaining a record of perfect attendance every single year of his entire history of schooling. He hadn’t missed a single day since he started in kindergarten. Not for illness. Not for a death. Not for vacation. Not for anything. Not one day missed for 13 years. I remember how, in the months leading up to the end of our senior year, he balked at “senior skip day” and how he came to school with the flu and all sorts of other symptoms. He was determined to keep up his unmarred record and his teachers and classmates, myself included, egged him on. There was something I found respectable about his willingness to power through, as if he was some sort of martyr for having survived cases of pink eye and the chicken pox while concurrently completing his multiplication tables and learning state capitals. It does seem a pretty remarkable feat.

Now, a full-on grown up, I still fight an internalized message— one that says things like, “you’re not going to let a little thing like a cold stand in your way, are you?” Somehow, whether through a family cultural message or through a broader societal message, I seem to have gotten confused about the value of caring for myself and allowing my body to rest and heal. There are other underlying messages contributing, too, of course. Outright denial tends to complicate things as does my own family’s hesitation to pay for health care when I was a kid or to miss work due to the financial implications. These days, I’m usually able to engage with my rational brain in these instances, but it still takes a good amount of effort. Another thing that I understand much better now also is the importance of thinking about how my own actions impact others— that is, the spread of my illness to others is something that I take far more seriously, especially given who I work with at Intuition Wellness Center.

Today my fellow team members and I work with a vulnerable population of children and young people. Some of them are living with chronic illness, both physical and mental. It can be very difficult, even for a seasoned professional, to determine what symptoms are rooted in a physical ailment and what is purely emotional. Part of the difficulty is that, the more we understand, the more we realize that often they are not truly distinct parts or processes in our bodies. Symptoms such as fatigue, decrease in appetite, stomachaches and headaches could be part of the flu or an ongoing chronic “body-based” medical issue and they could also be symptoms of depression or anxiety. Those with chronic physical disease are also more susceptible to mental illness as the impact on their social relationships and everyday functioning can weigh heavily on their emotional health. Because proper diagnosis is more complicated when there are both physical and mental health issues, many people do not get proper care for one or the other or both. Mental illness is often associated with poorer diets and exercise routines as well, which make it both more difficult to stay physically healthy and to recuperate from physical illness as well as to improve from the mental illness itself.

Not everyone has been inundated with the same messages that I received as a kid. Among the team members I work with and the clients I see, many are stellar at listening to their bodies and giving themselves the proper time to rest and recuperate. We do often get the question from parents, however, as to whether they should bring their sick child in for their psychotherapy appointment. It does feel like a tough thing to navigate for some kids who seem to be so susceptible to illness that they rarely seem to be symptom-free come flu season. Many parents also do seem to understand that the discomfort of physical illness seems to intensify some of the symptoms of mental illness (and be intensified by mental illness) and want support for their children during this time. While often I do emphasize the importance of regular attendance in psychotherapy sessions, when a child is truly physically ill with something like the flu or has some other contagious condition, my answer is consistent— stay home.

Keeping your kids home from school, community events or their counseling appointments when they are sick helps them recover sooner and prevents them from spreading the illness to others. Staying home from an appointment with a team member at Intuition Wellness Center due to a contagious condition, also means helping to prevent particularly vulnerable children and young people from potentially catching something that could contribute to worsened mental illness as well.

But how sick is too sick for an appointment at Intuition Wellness Center?

• A temperature over 100 degrees;
• Throwing up or diarrhea;
• Pink and crusty eyes;
• Doctor states they should stay home;
• Too sick for school;
• Any other condition that is infectious/contagious/spreads (including head lice).

It may be ok to go to an appointment at Intuition Wellness Center if your child doesn’t have any other symptoms besides a runny nose and a little cough. However, it’s always a good idea to consult with your child’s pediatrician and call your clinician prior to the appointment.

Please help the Intuition Wellness Center community and other vulnerable populations to stay healthy by resting when you’re sick. At Intuition Wellness we consider clients staying home due to illness an important act of self care and waive our cancellation fee for such instances.

When is sick too sick for you or your child? Let us know in the comments section below how you can tell when your child needs extra rest so that other readers can benefit from your wisdom!

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. Call us at 520-333-3320.

Written by: Brandy Baker, PsyD in collaboration with Co-Founder Yoendry Torres, PsyD & H.S. Intern Manasa Swaminathan

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Contemporary Family Lessons from the Ancient Art of Taekwondo

What do sports have to do with personal wellbeing and family functioning? A lot, it turns out, if the sport you’re talking about is Taekwondo. In a recent blog series, Master Yoendry Torres, a psychologist, Taekwondo instructor and Executive Director of Intuition Wellness Center discusses how the basic tenets of Taekwondo can be applied to more general well-being.

Here are Master Torres’ blog posts compiled for your convenience:

Liked what you read? Ready to join Master Torres in the Taekwondo Wellness Program at Intuition Wellness Center? It’s easy!

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation and to get more information on any one of the many services and programs we offer.

Photo courtesy of creativecommons.org

Written by: Brandy Baker, PsyD

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Device-Distracted Parents: You’re Just As Bad As Your Kids!

Despite the fact that I typically consider myself less tech savvy than many of my same-age peers, I’m just as guilty as the next gal when it comes to overindulging in technology and screen time. I am sometimes device-distracted and dependent and it has, without a doubt, impacted the quality of my engagement in the world. To prove it, I’m going to confess: Sometimes I have to practically sit on my hands in order to resist the urge to grab my phone when I hear a buzz or ding and this has occurred during dinnertime with my family; I have gotten lost in a social media feed rabbit hole on more than one occasion for hours at a time and it has sometimes prevented me from getting to bed at a reasonable hour; I have often read junky articles online that did not improve my life or provide me with useful knowledge during times that I’ve set aside to complete work-related presentations and projects; and my biggest confession yet… my smartphone is  sometimes better at getting my attention than my children and I have, at times, wanted nothing more than to retreat into mindless technology in moments that I had set aside to play with my kids. Judge all you want, but I know that I’m certainly not alone in this because I have the great fortune of working with several families who struggle with the same sort of difficulties.

Generally, I interpret these moments as a sign that a parent is tapped out and desperately in need of self care. In my own life, I know that getting lost in technology and social media is unlikely to be helpful to getting rid of my brain clutter or recharging to my best mom self. Caroline Knorr from Common Sense Media wrote a great little article that gives good tips for those of us who would like to resist the screen time spiral. You can find Caroline Knorr’s whole post here and a condensed excerpt below.

5 Simple Ways to Save Yourself from Device Addiction (condensed from Common Sense Media)

  1. Keep a running list of “Things to google later.” Ask yourself what’s critical to know now and what’s just good to know.
  2. Tame your device. Use your phone’s settings to silence alerts, set up a “Do Not Disturb,” etc.
  3. That goes for vibrate mode also. That “phantom vibration” you imagine… it’s a problem.
  4. Get yourself some parental controls. Enlist the help of apps to monitor your use and designate screen-free times.
  5. Practice mindfulness. Turn off that “always on” feeling with a here-and-now focus.

There are some controversial posts out there that argue that limiting adult screen time isn’t necessary. However, recent research is beginning to raise red flags around this issue.  For example, technology use that interferes with parent-child interactions (AKA “technoference”) predicts children’s attention-seeking behavior. There’s still a lot left to learn on this topic and we really don’t know how these device-distracted parent-child interactions will impact the child or the relationship in the long-term, though researchers have been observing these interactions for at least a few years in an effort to gain a better understanding. In the meantime, as with many parenting decisions, your personal values and parenting philosophy continue to be your most important guides when it comes to addressing the screen time issue and determining when and how to limit your own usage. Personally, I’m starting my “google later” list right now.

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. If you think you need some extra support, call us. We offer parent guidance and a slew of other supportive services. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

You might also pop on over to our Facebook or Pinterest pages for lots more great stuff.

Photo courtesy of Kaboompics via creativecommons.org

Written by: Brandy Baker, PsyD

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When Your Child Says She Hates to Learn (Part 2)

Now that you’ve identified that your child is a refusal-to-put-in-the-work, acting-up, perfection-or-bust, or seeking-constant-reassurance bright kid (or just a kid with a nose), perhaps you would like some guidance? Last month I talked all about a fixed mindset and how it leads to these unfortunate presentations (and if you haven’t read it, no judgment, but you’ll want to read that post before you go any further). Then I said nothing, not even a single word, about what you could do to help your child. You were left wondering, should I say no to ribbons and trophies? Should I discourage my child from counting the freckles on her ankles? What, Dr. Baker?!? What shall I do to help my child love to learn again?!?

Do you see what I did there? So clever of me to rope you in and then leave you wondering, though I do hope that you signed up for our monthly newsletter as it gave a nice little intro to this post. Wait no longer loyal readers, here’s what you came for…

Super speedy review first!

Fixed mindset is:

A belief that your qualities are carved in stone–that you have a certain amount of talent and that’s that. In a fixed mindset, effort is only for those who can’t make it on talent and success is about being more gifted than others.

Growth mindset is:

A belief that basic qualities are things that you can cultivate through effort– that, while people may differ in initial talents, interests, aptitudes and temperaments, everyone can change and improve through application and experience. People in a growth mindset are able to look frankly at their weaknesses, challenge themselves, learn something hard and stick with it. Effort, finding strategies that work, and seeking input from others are seen as the keys to success.

We ALL have a fixed mindset sometimes. We ALL have a growth mindset sometimes. And in many cases, we have a smattering of both. However, it’s a real service to our children and ourselves to strive for a growth mindset ALL the time as too much of a fixed mindset can literally undo the natural love of learning we were all born with.

Instill a growth mindset:

Talk to your children about mindset. The very act of teaching the difference between a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset makes a difference! Research by Dr. Carol Dweck indicates that telling children about stories of a growth mindset helps them adopt a similar outlook. For an example to share, you might tell your child about some of Dweck’s research on students entering junior high who were matched on grades. Dweck concluded that those with a growth mindset improved their math grades incrementally over the course of their junior high experience while those with a fixed mindset demonstrated worsened math grades by the end of junior high. Another super fun example of how a growth mindset can be beneficial can be found in this little video that I like to show children, especially if they have interest in athletics. Spoiler alert: it includes some friendly banter between olympic runners who seem pretty committed to improvement despite their obvious success.

Model a healthy response to failure. The next time you don’t master something, you have the perfect opportunity to discuss your experience with your child. Struggling to get out the door on time in the morning? Burned the meal at dinnertime? Forgot about a deadline? These are all instances when you can fess up to your mistakes and talk out loud about how you might improve. This normalizes the learning process and reminds your child (and you) that there is always work to be done in order to get better.

Encourage studying to learn, not to memorize. Repetitive review of material to ace an exam is memorization and a lot less likely to stick than true learning of the material such as going over mistakes until you’re sure you understand them. Looking for unique strategies that suit the learner and studying with the purpose of understanding will result in better grades! It should be noted that, for those in a fixed mindset, rather than trying to repair or learn from a failure, they are likely to try to repair their self-esteem by looking for others who are worse.

Allow progress, improved learning tactics, and effort to be the basis for success. Making your 15-year-old daughter’s phone privileges dependent on her getting all A’s and B’s at school may be very tempting given how motivated she seems by her phone usage. One problem with this, however, is that it sets a tone that you value good grades not good study habits and fails to acknowledge that school is a place for learning (and seems to suggest that she should have mastered the subject already). A better strategy? Praise your child for improvements in study habits. Question how she studied and discuss how well those tactics worked for her or help her study and have a conversation about what you notice. Reinforce the work that your child puts into learning (such as attending after school tutoring or asking for additional practice). Don’t emphasize scores, grades, or trophies.

Teach the importance of strategy and goal-setting. Think of a time you were enjoying doing something and then it got hard and you wanted out. Unless you were just in it for fun, chances are that you didn’t have a realistic perspective on the work that it would require. If there’s something that your child enjoys and wants to get better in, help him create realistic, short-term goals for himself and figure out what he needs to achieve it. Consider hiring a coach or tutor and creating a practice schedule. If your 5-year-old son is expressing interest in learning how to write all of his letters by the end of summer, make a plan to introduce 2 or 3 new letters each week and help him map it out on a calendar so he can see his progress toward achieving his goal. Praise his work toward his goals.

Use the word “yet” regularly. People with a fixed mindset thrive when things are safely within their grasp. Depending on a person’s current capacity, this could signal some pretty big limitations. The concept of “yet” is simple. If your child says, “I don’t understand the math…” you add ”YET!” Again, this sends the message that working toward something is the norm and reinforces a value around effort.

Stop saying “You’re so smart.” In fact, re-think labels altogether. Labeling someone as smart actually has a negative impact on them! Likewise, saying things like, “Ben is such an artist” or “Elizabeth is so bright, she got an A without even studying” lead to Ben thinking to himself  “I shouldn’t try too hard, they’ll see I’m not that talented” and Elizabeth thinking “I better not study or they won’t think I’m bright.” Making these sort of statements devalues the effort needed to be exceptional at things and reinforces a fixed mindset.

There you have it folks– 7 things that you can do that I guarantee will help you and your child begin to love learning again. One more reminder also that no one is ALWAYS in a growth mindset. If you’ve been making some mistakes due to fixed mindset issues, you’re one of many. Now that you know these things, put on your observation goggles. You’ll notice lots of opportunities to support a growth mindset in your children. Know also that a lot of this may not feel intuitive since many of us were the victims of empty praise ourselves, but don’t give up just because you haven’t mastered the growth mindset… yet!

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. If you think you need more than what this mindset series offered or, if after trying this, you still think your child (and/or those around her) could use some extra support, call us. We offer school success consultations and a variety of evaluations as well as parent guidance and a slew of other supportive services. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

You might also pop on over to our Facebook or Pinterest pages for lots more great stuff.

Written by: Brandy Baker, PsyD

Image Credit: Steven Depolo. via creativecommons.org

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When Your Child Says She Hates to Learn (Part 1)

Refusing to do homework, acting up in school, turning everything into a competition, constantly seeking positive feedback, falling apart when something isn’t perfect… These are all warning signs that your child may lose her love of learning. And it’s dreadful really, because what is there if there isn’t learning?

When a baby is learning to walk, she falls and gets back up over and over again because she is determined to learn– driven by a desire to master this challenge and undeterred by the effort needed to do so. And then, after a child becomes capable of looking at herself critically, sometimes she starts to view effort as a bad thing. Somehow, some children begin to develop the belief that, if they were truly smart or talented, then they wouldn’t need to put in effort. A resistance toward challenge develops and a fear of failure takes hold. This is what research psychologist, Carol Dweck, calls a “fixed mindset.”

A few ways a fixed mindset manifests:

Refusal to Put in the Work: Putting in effort and failing is threatening to the self concept of a child with a fixed mindset, so your child may just refuse to work at all. At least then, when the night before your teen son’s physics mid-term he still hasn’t ventured past chapter 1, there’s no question as to what the outcome will be the next day and when, inevitably, his performance suffers, then he has the handy excuse of not having tried anyway.

Acting Up: In a ploy to avoid being “found out” as not knowing something or not being a complete expert, your child may tantrum, create a diversion, or engage in behaviors that force punishment. A theme of major meltdowns in math class everyday may be less about the teacher and more about your child’s insecurities. Sabotaging her long-awaited chance to promote to orange belt in karate may feel easier in the moment than being put on the spot in front of her instructor and peers and risking her identity as an impressive student. And one that seems to resonate with many families– knocking the “Sorry” game board across the room and spitting out, “I hate you,” because big sister caught him cheating on his third turn… much safer to just quit and blame another than to risk failing by playing by the rules.

Perfection or Bust: Because a fixed mindset leads to misperceptions of all talents being natural and effortless and a very black and white way of thinking about ability (either you have it or you don’t), a need to prove oneself against peers may develop. Rather than a child’s own performance becoming her measuring stick, she may be pushed repeatedly to the brink of a major breakdown in her pursuit of the title of valedictorian. This form of competition is not encouraging and does not lead to a positive peer culture, but rather becomes a rat race of kids valuing perfection (measured by grades and trophies) rather than progress.

Seeking Constant Reassurance: For the child intent on maintaining his title role as the best of the best (because he has interpreted this to mean that he has value in the world), failure does not appear to be an option. He asks, “Do you like my picture?” after every single stroke of his paintbrush. And when your daughter receives constructive criticism from her English teacher on her “To Kill a Mockingbird” essay, rather than valuing it as feedback that will help her improve and learn from her assignment, she begins to complain that her teacher is mean and doesn’t like her.

These stories resonate because every person everywhere has witnessed and dealt with a fixed mindset at some point. It’s the terrible result and continuing aftershocks of an experiment gone wrong– the one where an entire generation was subjected to adults repeatedly saying “good job” without meaning or specificity. The one where we were emptily awarded ribbons for participation even if we showed no interest or motivation to participate or improve and sat week after week on the sidelines counting the freckles on our left ankles.

Can a fixed mindset be repaired? Yes! And it’s easier than you might think! Here’s the link to get my 7 steps to a healthier mindset. In part 2 of my mindset series, I talk about many things you can do to start to transform your and your child’s fixed mindset into a growth mindset.

You might also pop on over to our Facebook or Pinterest pages for lots more great stuff, including some great little posts on mindset.

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated behavioral health services and programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written by: Brandy Baker, PsyD

Image Credit: Monica H. via creativecommons.org

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My Child Was Exposed to Media Coverage of a Tragic Event… What Can I Do?

With in-depth minute-by-minute coverage of news now literally at our fingertips, it’s impossible to shield our children from the tragedies of the world. While this may be ok in some cases, some children are particularly sensitive. In addition, many parents also worry about desensitizing children to violence and cruelty. If your child is fearful or anxious following exposure to a media-covered event, you may be wondering about how to proceed. For this reason, I offer some tips on how to help your child.

 

Talking to Children about Tragedy:
  1. Be your child’s news source. However you decide to talk about the situation, it’s much better for the child if you’re the one who tells them. You want to be the one to set the tone and share the facts. Doing so in a calm and developmentally-appropriate way is important. Give them a break from watching the news even if they are interested in getting the latest developments. When you’re ready to turn on the news again, watch it with them so that you’re available for questions.
  2. Follow your child’s lead. Invite them to tell you anything they may have heard about the situation and how they feel. Try not to ask leading questions. Be prepared to answer their questions, too, but avoid language that will encourage their fear and don’t give more than what they are asking for.
  3. Validate your child’s feelings. Listen to your child and be empathic. It’s important to accept their feelings and let them know it’s ok to feel what they are feeling, but don’t give power to the fear. Help your child understand what they’re anxious about, while sending the message that “we” can handle it.
  4. Be reassuring and realistic. Your child may be fearful because they are worried something bad could happen to them or someone they care about. Reassure them that you are going to help them get through their fear and let them know of any safety measures in place to protect them. Sometimes it may also help to talk through what would happen if your child’s fear came true. For some kids, having a plan in place helps to reduce their uncertainty and worry.
  5. Be consistent. Kids find great comfort in the predictable and usual. Fear of something bad happening can sometimes lead to avoidant behaviors, but avoidance can actually reinforce anxiety. Keep as many things stable as possible and preserve the family routine. Sometimes just spending time with your child may help them feel safer.
  6. Model a healthy response. Let your child see you cope with worry. Kids are very perceptive and they will notice how you manage stress and anxiety. Let your child see you managing it calmly, tolerating it, and feeling ok about getting through it. If you’re having trouble managing your own anxiety, seek support from other adults— family, friends, religious leaders, or a therapist.
  7. Take action. Some children may feel better by taking on a prosocial pursuit in the aftermath of tragedy. Find a developmentally-appropriate activity for them to take action such as sending a card, raising money, or organizing a vigil. Help them see the good that can come out of trauma— heroic events, helpers stepping forward, etc.
  8. Watch for signs. If your child seems to be expressing excessive fear and worry or avoiding their usual places or activities a few weeks after the event, seek consultation from their school counselor or psychologist, pediatrician or a private therapist.

There are a lot of resources for parents and therapists out there who are helping children navigate these stressful encounters. For more resources, here’s our FREE list chock full of clickable links– Download Caregiver Tools: Talking to Children About Tragedy

And, if you are a member of the media, please visit the National Childhood Traumatic Stress Network’s tips for covering traumatic events.
Subscribe to our Newsletter for service and general practice updates or pop on over to our Facebook or Pinterest pages for lots more great stuff.

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in counseling children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written by: Brandy Baker, PsyD

Image Credit: Randen Pederson via creativecommons.org

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Talking to Kids About Therapy

January and February are heavy traffic months for us here at Intuition Wellness Center. Many children who are new to us enter through our door for the first time in the early months of the new year and most have had little or no experience in therapy. In those first meetings, many kids shyly admit that they were nervous about their first therapy appointment and they’ll often say that it was because they didn’t know what to expect. Some worry about what others might think about them.

Time and time again, parents ask us how to talk to their children about starting therapy and I’m always pleased to have that conversation, because getting a child started on the right foot sure makes a difference and we love creating that working partnership with parents. Thanks to our team members, Grai Bluez and Meg Beardmore, we now have a handy dandy little Parent Guide for Kids Counseling at Intuition Wellness Center that can be read to or with kids. Here’s a little snippet that I think other professionals might even find helpful, too.

“Sometimes kids come to therapy when problems come up and hang around like uninvited guests, taking up space in their lives and brains. Problems that some kids face are things like too much worry that makes it hard to get things done, anger that makes messes at school or in relationships, or big changes in life that can be hard to understand. Sometimes, there is more than one problem hanging around and that can be a lot for kids to deal with on their own.

Here at Intuition Wellness, we have special people called therapists who work with kids and families. Our therapists will help teach you ways to manage these uninvited guests. We have lots of different kinds of therapists and even a therapy dog.

Now that you know why some kids go to therapy, you might have other questions…” Keep reading here!

It can be an intimidating thing to start therapy services, but we know a lot of children who were nervous at first and now look forward to having a space all their own. In fact, in 2016, nearly 200 children became Intuition Wellness clients! Within minutes of that first meeting, we usually see telltale signs that kiddo is beginning to relax– they sit back a little more comfortably in their seats or ask to investigate a toy in the office; they may get down on the floor with our team therapy dog; they begin to share little bits of their internal world with us through their play or conversation. In every case, we approach children with a goal that takes priority over all others– to create a trusting relationship.

To answer a child’s questions about “Where will I go?” “What will I do?” and “How often will I come?” visit our quick guide.

If you’d like more updates on our services or other activities, subscribe to our newsletter or pop on over to our Facebook or Pinterest pages for lots more great stuff.

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in counseling children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written by: Brandy Baker, PsyD

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30 Days of Gratitude!

There are a few of us here at Intuition who simply cannot resist a good-natured competition. So with a joyful spirit and plenty of determination, we are taking a gratitude challenge and we invite you to join us!

Beginning on November 1st, our team members invite you to our 30-day journaling challenge that will use these easy prompts from textmyjournal.com as inspiration.

 

30 Days of Gratitude Journaling Prompts

  1. What smell are you grateful for today?
  2. What technology are you grateful for?
  3. What color are you grateful for?
  4. What food are you most grateful for?
  5. What sound are you grateful for today?
  6. What in nature are you grateful for?
  7. What memory are you grateful for?
  8. What book are you most grateful for?
  9. What place are you most grateful for?
  10. What taste are you grateful for today?
  11. What holiday are you grateful for?
  12. What texture are you grateful for?
  13. What abilities are you grateful for?
  14. What sight are you grateful for today?
  15. What season are you grateful for?
  16. What about your body are you grateful for?
  17. What knowledge are you grateful for?
  18. What piece of art are you grateful for?
  19. What touch are you grateful for today?
  20. Who in your life are you grateful for?
  21. What song are you most grateful for?
  22. What story are you grateful for?
  23. What tradition are you grateful for?
  24. What challenge are you grateful for?
  25. What moment this week are you most grateful for?
  26. What form of expression are you most grateful for?
  27. What small thing that you use daily are you grateful for?
  28. What small thing that happened today are you grateful for?
  29. What friend/family member are you grateful for today?
  30. What talent or skill do you have that you are grateful for?

Why the focus on gratitude? Well, besides it being a natural fit to coincide with Thanksgiving festivities, gratitude has been studied extensively in recent years and, perhaps not surprisingly, an intentional practice of gratitude has lots of fantastic side effects, including happiness!

If you’d like more updates on our services or other activities, subscribe to our newsletter or pop on over to our Facebook or Pinterest pages for lots more great stuff.

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in counseling children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written by: Brandy Baker, PsyD

Image credit: Rory MacLeod

 

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Psychological Hygiene: Here’s what the doctor ordered…

The last time you went to the dentist and she reminded you to floss more regularly, maybe you nodded or giggled nervously, but certainly you didn’t walk out of her office thinking, “What a ridiculous suggestion!” You accepted it as a reasonable recommendation. And when you told yourself, “Self, it’s time to take better care of your teeth,” I doubt that your next thought was, “Gee, I’m so selfish and overindulgent.” Perhaps it’s because an expert told you to do it or perhaps it’s because it’s widely accepted in our culture that flossing is part of a solid oral hygiene routine, but for whatever reason you knew it was the right thing to do.

I’m making no judgments about whether you kept up your oral hygiene commitment. I am, however, making a judgment about our society’s lack of attention to the importance of psychological hygiene– the things that we do (or should be doing) on a regular basis to maintain good mental health. As a society, we seem to be a bit slower to jump on that bandwagon though there are some pretty clear reasons why to pursue it further. Intrigued? Good.

6 things to pay attention to right now for better psychological hygiene:

  • Mindfulness. This is about being in the present moment– the right now– with intention and without judgment. With the fast-paced chaos many of us currently live in, a mindfulness practice is becoming more important than ever. Greater Good in Action and Mindful.org are two great resources for lots of easy activities.
  • Exercise. Admittedly, most of us probably know that exercise is important to our wellbeing, but not everyone knows about all of the psychological benefits. Specifically, that exercise is also effective at treating psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety.  Pair up exercise with mindfulness and you’ve got an especially winning combination that recent research suggests can ward off and greatly relieve depressive symptoms.
  • Sleep. Unhealthy sleep patterns may increase the risk of mental illness and lead to problems with emotional regulation, memory,  and immune functioning. Some great resources for helping a child sleep include the American Academy of Pediatric’s sleep tips as well as our very own handout on getting a good night’s rest.
  • Nutrition. For so many reasons, good nutrition is important to our overall health and we are learning more and more about this every day. It’s far too complicated to get into a detailed analysis of all of the ways that nutrition link to emotional wellbeing, but I’ll offer a few examples. Perhaps most intuitive is the fact that sugar affects mood and may even be contributing to depression and anxiety. We also now know that gut health is directly linked to emotional health. There are also many things that are being added to food and coming into contact with items we ingest (such as the teflon on our pans) that are considered toxins for the brain, particularly in children and have been linked to a variety of behavioral and emotional health problems such as aggression, ADHD, Autism, and other neurodevelopmental issues.
  • Social Support. Hands down, social support is the most important buffering factor in times of stress, adversity and trauma. There are a series of fantastic long-term studies on this topic, which suggest that, for a child, the perception of having at least one invested adult is a significant protective factor.
  • Play. Well, of course! In this wildly hectic world, adults and children alike are becoming workaholics and achievement addicts. It’s not that we can’t get enjoyment from work or school, but certainly a healthy balance is necessary. With the positive psychology movement, we’ve now learned about the importance of awe and the concept of flow, which are sometimes nice benefits of play.

Did you know that first aid for mental health also exists? Yup. It’s a real thing. It’s what you should do if you or someone you know is having a mental health crisis or a metaphorical emotional bruise, scrape or cut. I’d encourage you to read about it also.

Subscribe to our Newsletter for service and general practice updates or pop on over to our Facebook or Pinterest pages for lots more great stuff.

My colleagues and I at Intuition Wellness Center specialize in counseling children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written by: Brandy Baker, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist

Image by Yann (talk) – Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7866365

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Parenting: the anguish of trying hard

Parenting

My blog-writing inspiration often comes from upcoming events and when I realized that World Breastfeeding Week is approaching (August 1st-7th), I was pretty quick to gently and metaphorically shove my colleagues at Intuition Wellness Center out of the way so that I could get my blog-writing on. It also took me no time to find some excellent resources regarding breastfeeding. See?

 

I had planned to write something lovely about early attachment between infant and mother and the benefit of early touch, skin-to-skin contact, and the other wonderful things involved with breastfeeding. But… I couldn’t even get an initial sentence out. Why? Having been privy to many conversations about mother’s guilt, the difficulties with bonding to baby, postpartum depression, the work/home balance, the trials and tribulations of breastfeeding a premature child, milk production issues and so on with many women in particular, well I just really didn’t see how re-hashing the benefits of breastfeeding would help and/or honor the truths of my current client base. They know the benefits, which is why it’s so difficult to let go of preconceived expectations for themselves and why so many felt so awful when breastfeeding or, let’s face it, any number of the other planned parenting methods they tried did not go well.

If you’re a parent or someone who works much with parents, I think you know what I’m talking about. I think you’ll also understand that one of the costs of being a parent is sheer disappointment when we don’t live up to our own (forget society’s!) standards. This is something that Jennifer Senior, author of All Joy and No Fun: the paradox of modern parenthood, describes as “parent anguish.” In her 2014 TedTalk, Senior says:  

“We feel like if we aren’t trying everything, it’s as if we’re doing nothing and we’re defaulting on our obligations to our kids…. In another era, we didn’t expect quite so much of ourselves.”

So, in homage to all of those mamas and papas who have found parenting to be so much harder than they could have imagined and to those who have felt that parenting served to highlight their shortcomings after a life of many successes, I direct you to a very honest Ted Talk by speakers, Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman. I discovered this talk some time ago, but it’s one I re-visit sometimes because it speaks directly and truthfully about how difficult parenting can be and everything that people don’t say about bringing new life into the world.

Ted Talk: Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman: “Let’s Talk Parenting Taboos” 

Let me add to this a statement that I say to parents regularly when I am working with their family in my practice, “Perfect parenting doesn’t lead to perfect children.” Children actually benefit from seeing us struggle and make mistakes from time to time. The reparations are invaluable. Please absorb that, Mamas and Papas and other caregivers, and apply it to any feelings of parenting regret you’ve been holding on to. Forgiving yourself and allowing yourself to be human is great modeling for your kids anyway.

My colleagues and I at Intuition Wellness Center specialize in counseling children, teens, and families. We have clinicians who are experts in parenting, early attachment, and just plain old frustration. If you believe you or someone you love could benefit from our services, we are here to help. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written by Brandy Baker, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Protecting our Most Precious Resource

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

Years ago I worked as a therapist in a quiet affluent suburb of Chicago. Little did most people know that tucked away on a side street in a series of unassuming red brick buildings, a teen residential program housed and was home to roughly 30-35 inner city teenagers. These kids had almost all come from a very disadvantaged background and were now considered “wards of the state.” While all unique, the kids in this program all had at least two things in common— they had suffered tremendously in their decade or two of life and they had survived.

I won’t go into their stories, because they aren’t mine to share, but I will say that I still can’t explain how I stomached reading their stacks of case files measured in feet rather than inches and wrought with details of who, when, how, and how much. They pushed me away, sometimes literally and often figuratively. It wasn’t easy to love children who had convinced themselves that they were unloveable, but I loved them anyway and I learned a lot about love from them. I learned about resilience and hope and vulnerability. I still learn from them when I replay our interactions in my mind. Usually, I smile when I think of them, because I remember the times that I came home exhausted from our snowboarding trips or our group art evenings or jumping rope or dressing up in silly costumes. Working with these children was the epitome of a life-altering experience. While I had long been interested in the concept of resilience, the kids that I served in those years were the first of many who utterly and totally embodied the spirit of a bounce-back kid.

Now I work with a very different population in a private practice setting. Most of the families who come to see me have many resources, most of the children live with a biological or adoptive parent or other extended family member, and rarely do the children come to me with stacks of papers detailing their time “in the system.” Most of the kids I see these days have not experienced child maltreatment firsthand, but these kids are bounce-back kids, too. Many have been through tough times— divorce, school challenges, acutely traumatic events, family conflict, self-doubt, friendship difficulties, worry, or sadness. They never fail to impress me.

Whether from a gang-infested neighborhood where violence is the ultimate in conflict resolution or from a quiet cul de sac where tutoring and swim team are the main events, children are deserving of protection and reverence. I urge you, in this month dedicated to Child Abuse Prevention, to think about additional ways to support and preserve childhood.

Here are a few things that you can do to protect children:

  1. Know your resources:
    Be informed about how to report suspected child maltreatment
    See Intuition Wellness Center’s Resource Page for supports
    Search PsychologyToday.com, call your insurance company, or contact us to find a therapist
  2. Offer your financial support:
    Donate to Prevent Child Abuse America
    Designate your income tax return to the Child Abuse Prevention Fund
    Purchase a Child Abuse Prevention Specialty License Plate
  3. Bring attention to the cause:
    Wear blue or pin on a blue ribbon
    Share a story
    Offer education to others
  4. Surround children with safe caregivers:
    Trust your gut if you sense that a caregiver may not be a good fit
    Join a parenting group or take a class
    If a parent seems to be struggling, offer to babysit
    Watch for warning signs

My colleagues and I at Intuition Wellness Center specialize in counseling children, teens, and families. We have clinicians who specialize in cultivating resilience in your child. If you believe you or someone you love could benefit from our services, we are here to help. Call 520-419-6636 for a free phone consultation.

Written by Brandy Baker, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist

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Raising Resilient Kids, Part 2

A few weeks back, I ventured into blogland just briefly to share some thoughts about resilience in Part 1 of this series. A few days later, I was fortunate enough to speak to a group of parents about promoting resilience through an event hosted by the Northbrook Citizens for Drug and Alcohol Awareness (NCDAA). Through our discussion, it became clear to me that there is a common misperception that resilience is dichotomous—a have or have not—a pretty scary notion if you think about it and an awful lot of pressure for concerned parents to be carrying around. The good news is that everyone is resilient to some degree. The bad news is, after re-reading my last blog, I realized that I may have fed into this unfortunate misperception by suggesting that resilience is something only exhibited by the “outliers” in society. So, I’m here to clarify and maybe to put some minds at ease. Whether you consider yourself an outlier or not, you are resilient! Your children are resilient! We are all resilient! That said, there are things that can be done to maximize each person’s resilience quotient.

http://www.jcfscommunities.org/blog/2012/12/4/raising-resilient-kids-part-2.html

By Brandy Baker, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist

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Mental Illness Stigma – A Silent Killer

The stigma of mental illness is a significant problem in our society that may be killing us silently. I cannot count the times that a new client shook their head no while saying “I’m not crazy” or a family member pointed their finger exclaiming “I’m not crazy, they’re the problem.” I also witnessed many times pedestrians on the street, commuters on a bus, or shoppers at a supermarket ridiculing someone because of a perceived mental illness. Not surprisingly, the feelings of shame and embarrassment come to mind among others that would hinder one’s ability to seek treatment in the first place and take full advantage of treatments available for mental illness.

Unfortunately, that mentality is a commonly held societal belief that is problematic and detrimental to treatment. Consider some of the harmful effects of the stigma of mental illness as outlined by the Mayo Clinic:

  • Lack of understanding by family, friends, colleagues or others you know
  • Discrimination at work or school
  • Difficulty finding housing
  • Bullying, physical violence or harassment
  • Health insurance that doesn’t adequately cover your mental illness
  • The belief that you will never be able to succeed at certain challenges or that you can’t improve your situation
  • Stigma of mental illness is also a major barrier to psychological treatment because it prevents some people from seeking treatment in the first place. This is a major problem because according to the National Institute of Mental Health about 10% of adults in U.S. suffer from a mood disorder and another 18% from an anxiety disorder in any 12 month period. Only 51% of those experiencing a mood disorder and 37% of those experiencing an anxiety disorder are receiving treatment. To make matters worse, there is an overwhelming amount of research linking mental illness to suicide. The American Association of Suicidology reported that “in 2006, suicide was the eleventh leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming 33,300 lives per year” and “the risk of suicide in people with major depression is about 20 times that of the general population.” That same report cited research by Isacsson and others (2000) adding that “the suicide risk among treated patients is 141/100,000,” which is significantly lower than 20% for untreated depression.

    Stigma also prevents others from fully engaging or benefiting from the therapeutic process. Let me illustrate how stigma associated with seeking services can hinder effective treatment with an example from my clinical experience:

      About a year ago, I began treating an adolescent client who was experiencing several symptoms of depression, including sadness, isolation, irritability, thoughts of worthlessness, and thoughts of death, as well as attention-seeking behaviors. After a couple of months of weekly meetings with the youth, it became clear that she felt ignored by one withdrawn parent. She responded to that parent’s withdrawal by engaging in problematic behaviors intended to gain attention. I made numerous attempts to engage that parent into family therapy with little success. During one brief individual meeting, that parent stated “I’m not crazy, my child has the problem” and refused to participate in family therapy. Although it was beneficial for that youth to learn to cope and express her feelings appropriately, including her parent in sessions would have expedited therapeutic progress if the parent would have been willing to take a look at what their role in the ongoing problems were and make some changes. Moreover, it could have been fruitful for that parent also, as it could have provided some insight into their daughter’s problematic behavior and possibly lead to an improved and more satisfying relationship. This client went on to make substantial progress, seeing decreases in many symptoms especially thoughts of death, but it took many more months than if her parent had attended and participated in therapy sessions. Sadly, the youth’s relationship with her parent was not repaired.

    It could be extremely productive for children and adolescents to involve parents or guardians into family therapy, as this approach can improve dysfunctional interactions and poor communications that plague the family. Below are a few strategies that clinicians, physicians, or anyone else who wants to eliminate the stigma of mental illness might consider utilizing.

    Strategies for Overcoming Mental Illness Stigma

    Motivate. Many people will not engage fully into any activity they do not see a value in or worthwhile. The same is true for psychotherapy. Explain how counseling will benefit them, but be specific providing examples of how exactly therapy would make their life easier, happier, more fulfilling, etc.

    Redefine. Many people still consider people who are homicidal or psychotic to be “crazy” and the only ones receiving mental health care. In actuality, people seek treatment for all types of issues including behavioral problems, depression, and marital conflict just to name a few.

    Engage, engage, engage! Do not give up after your first attempt to encourage someone to begin treatment. Be persistent. I have found that it is useful to “trouble shoot” and find solutions to obstacles preventing them from participating in treatment.

    Educate. Information helps people make informed decisions. If you are informed about mental illness, its consequences, and its treatment, share your knowledge.

    Be Patient. Many people hold on to long-held beliefs due to societal or cultural influences. Be aware that it takes time to make change, especially one that involves reframing our worldview. Be patient and do not give up or blame the individual.

    Recruit. There is strength in numbers. Recruit allies such as family members, friends, service providers or others to help overcome the stigma of mental illness.

    Advocate. There are many local and national organizations that are fighting the stigma of mental illness by educating the public about mental health issues, lobbying congress for mental health parity and to prevent discrimination towards people with mental illness, conducting research, and offering support. Get involved! There are many ways one can take action and help end the stigma of mental illness. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is one such organization worth looking into if you are interested in advocacy.

    Author: Dr. Yoendry Torres, Clinical Psychologist

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