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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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Parenting Tip: Structure Via Rules & Routine

RulesIt may come as no surprise, but kids can thrive with a bit of structure that gives them a sense of routine and with rules that inform them of how they are expected to behave. Structure is an overarching concept that includes a consistent routine and well defined, individualized rules. Routines help children know what to expect and rules help them understand what is expected of them. I have put together a list of recommendations to keep in mind when developing a structure and rules for your family.

Suggestions for structure:

  • The key to creating a structure is to be as consistent as possible, knowing that you will have to be flexible once in a while.
  • Keep in mind that the younger the child the more “transition” time they will need. For example, if you want your 4 year old to go to sleep at 8, then plan on starting the wind down process about 45-60 before.
  • Teens also need some transition time and so don’t expect them to stop what they are doing the second you ask. Instead, remind them that they have 5 minutes so that they have some time to wrap things up before moving on to the next thing.
  • Try not to over schedule yourself and your kids. For example, enrolling your child in a sport can be a wonderful activity but it can also strain your family time and “rest time” because you’ll end up spending lots of time commuting.
  • Remember to schedule in family fun time so that spending time together becomes part of your routine. If you want to learn more about scheduling family time, read our previous blog on that topic.

Suggestions for rules:

  • When creating rules, keep in mind that family rules are not just rules for the children. In other words, if behaving respectfully is a rule, then the rules are more likely to be followed and successful if the parents model respectful behavior. Read our blog about modeling and its importance.
  • Be inclusive and ask your kids for feedback on the rules you are planning on setting up. Ultimately, the parents have the final say but rules are more successful if the kids have taken part in their creation.
  • Create rules for all your children not just one otherwise that may create family dynamics of unfairness, entitlement, resentment, etc.
  • Lastly, age-appropriate monitoring and loving guidance complete the learning loop by providing children with structure that is consistent with family values.

Subscribe to our wellness blog for more tips (see the far right column of this page or the bottom of the page if you’re using your mobile phone) 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, teens, and families. We have clinicians who specialize in working with families overcoming challenging patterns. 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 Yoendry Torres, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist

Image credit: Yoendry Torres

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Parenting Tip: Actively Listen

1024px-Ruído_Noise_041113GFDLYouth I work with often share with me that their parents “don’t listen” and/or “don’t understand.” Listening to children is about communicating to them that you truly heard them by validating their feelings and expressing empathy. This type of listening is called active listening and it can help create a stronger bond and trust between parents and children and help resolve conflicts.

Here are a few tips about active listening:

 

  1. Active listening is being in a conversation without a preconceived notion of what should be said or defensiveness to what the other person said. Instead listen with curiosity.
  2. Active listening is about hearing the content but focusing on the underlying feelings of what was said. Listen and look for clues as to what they are feeling. For example, if a teen rolls their eyes they are probably annoyed or frustrated. Reflect on the feeling by saying something like “You seem really annoyed with me right now.”
  3. The key to active listening is to repeat back or summarize what the other person said in order to check if you understood them correctly. Simply paraphrase what they just said in your own words to check if you got it all. If not, ask for clarification and keep asking questions to learn more about what they are thinking and/or feeling.
  4. When practicing active listening, remember it is about expressing curiosity of what the other is sharing and not about defending or rationalizing your own behavior. For example, when your child says that they’re upset about you arriving late from work, ask more about how that makes your child feel rather than going into an explanation about why you were late.

I hope you found these listening tips useful! I plan to write about other tips in the near future so stay tuned. You can subscribe to our wellness blog (see the far right column of this page or the bottom of the page if you’re using your mobile phone) 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, teens, and families. We have clinicians who specialize in working with families overcoming challenging patterns. 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 Yoendry Torres, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist

Image credit: “Ruído Noise 041113GFDL” by Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez (Lmbuga Commons)(Lmbuga Galipedia)Publicada por/Publish by: Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ru%C3%ADdo_Noise_041113GFDL.JPG#/media/File:Ru%C3%ADdo_Noise_041113GFDL.JPG

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Creating a Behavior Chart that Works!

Behavior ChartI’ve worked with lots of teachers, school staff, kids and families who have either given up on behavior charts altogether or who seem to be losing their confidence in them. Many of my clients support teams have described a disappointing scenario— “She never really took to it” or “He seems to respond wonderfully at first and then loses interest” or even “We had good intentions, but it was really hard to keep it updated.” I’m not suggesting that  a behavior chart is the answer for everything, but I will say that they can be pretty helpful for some kids. And here’s the best part— they can be EASY and FUN! So whether you’re ready to give it another shot or if you’re developing your first behavior chart, here’s our freebie (and a bonus) to you: 5 Tips for Creating Successful Behavior Charts AND Ideas for Rewarding Preferred Behavior

BHchartScreen Shot

For more free printables, advice and amusing musings, subscribe to our blog (see the far right column of this page or, if you’re on your cell, try scrolling to the bottom of this page) 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, teens, and families. We have clinicians who are experts in working with families and schools on challenging behavioral issues. 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 twobee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Parenting Tip: Teamwork

Parenting Team

“There’s no I in team” is a common sports expression and a value highlighted in many superhero movies. It’s also a great motto for parents. Consistently working together toward family goals with a unified parenting approach reduces the chances of children being confused about what is expected from them. Creating simple and concrete rules and expectations that are clearly and jointly communicated to children is a great way to accomplish this.

A few tips to help parents be a strong and unified team:

  • Come up with a game plan: It’s important for each parent to be able to identify their own values and goals first before coming together to discuss family values and goals. Then parents can jointly and collaboratively decide what the family values and goals are that they want to instill in their children. Try this four step exercise to accomplish this:
    1. First write down what are your most important values. Write down as many as come to mind and do this independently from your partner.
    2. Then write down your goals for yourself and family in as much detail as possible by asking yourself the following questions: What do I want to accomplish in 5, 10, 15 years? What do I want my family accomplish in 5, 10, 15 years?
    3. Now that you have both written down your own values and goals, spend some time sharing what you wrote with your partner. Be curious and ask many questions to explore these values and get more details.
    4. Lastly, you will probably have a good idea about what the family values and goals are by now since both of you have shared your own values and goals. Write these down and use them as guidelines for parenting decisions and also when making other decisions that impact your family. In other words, keep those values and goals in mind when making future choices.
  • Keep your eye on the ball: Parents work best together when they keep their eyes on a common goal. So keep discussions focused on the goal rather than falling into the trap of blaming each other. Focus on how you can achieve the goal such as reducing or eliminating an unwanted behavior your child is doing.
  • Get on the same page: Present a unified front when disciplining your children especially about rules, consequences, and incentives. Doing the exercise above is a good way to start because it helps clarify the rules. It is helpful for parents to also have discussions about consequences and incentives they want to use with their children. I will write more about this in a separate blog.
  • Avoid mixed messages: A common trap that parents fall into is when one parent gives a consequence that the other parent quickly overturns after the child complains. Instead, back up your partner even if you don’t agree and discuss your disagreement with them out of your children’s earshot. If it turns out that the consequence requires adjustment, both parents can explain the reasoning for the change to the child together. This way the child hears a clear message and views parents as a unified front.

I hope you found these tips useful! I plan to write about other tips in the near future so stay tuned. You can subscribe to our wellness blog (see the far right column of this page or far bottom on mobile phones) 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, teens, and families. We have clinicians who specialize in working with families overcoming challenging patterns. 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 Yoendry Torres, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist

Image credit: By The Conmunity – Pop Culture Geek from Los Angeles, CA, USA (Comikaze Expo 2011 – mutant family) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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Nine Great Tips for Getting your Kids to Sleep

SleepIt’s not at all uncommon for the kiddos that come through my door to struggle with getting a good night’s sleep. This can happen for all sorts of reasons— anxiety, depression, sensory sensitivities, over-stimulation, and just plain old unhelpful sleep habits to name a few. I recently had the great pleasure of collaborating with local pediatrician, Dr. Jessica Schultz from Children’s Medical Center of Tucson, to assist a client who was having some minor sleep difficulties. Dr. Schultz gave some fantastic recommendations focused on relaxing the body and mind. This stuff seemed just too good not to share! Dr. Schultz; my esteemed colleague, Grazi Martins; and I have collaborated to put together a great little printable chock full of practical advice on getting your child to sleep.

Click Here or Image below for Sleep Tips! 

Sleep Tips Doc Image

For more free printables, advice and amusing musings, subscribe to our blog (see the far right column of this page) 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, teens, and families. We have clinicians who are experts in anxiety, depression, and sleepy kids. 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 David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Parenting Tip: Modeling

1024px-Vlečení_kolaMahatma Gandhi once said “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” One way that I interpret this inspiring quote is to act the way you want others to act. I work with many families and I believe this mantra often applies when there is conflict between parents and children.

Parents usually want their child to stop disrespecting, yelling, acting aggressively, etc. I work collaboratively with the parents on how they can model the behavior they want to see in their children. We work toward enhancing parenting skills that help bring peace and joy back to their home.

Here are a few tips that usually help parents achieve this goal.

Parenting Tips:

  • Schedule play. Make time in your schedule to play with your family. It is important for families to have fun and bond through positive experiences. Schedule a game night or a hike or time together at a park. It is far too easy to get so bogged down with today’s hectic lifestyle that we fail to engage and enjoy our loved ones despite our best intentions. Making time for your child teaches him or her the important values of having fun with your family and communicates to him or her where your priorities lie.
  • Be present. How many times have you seen parents and children on their cell phones while sitting at a restaurant? Pretty often is my experience. Unfortunately, not much bonding is happening when everyone’s eyes are focused on the screens. Instead, put down the phones or any other distractions and be present with your children. Listen to what they are saying and reflect back on the feelings underneath their comments. This will go a long way toward creating a strong bond where your child feels listened to and understood.
  • And lastly, be the change you wish to see in your children. Parents are typically the main role models for young children so consider what you want your kids to learn from you next time you get angry. For example, it is often helpful to request space from each other and go into another room and later, once calm, discuss the situation with your child. When your children observe you engaging in a healthy coping skill to calm down when you feel angry, they will be more likely to do the same.

These are just a few of the frequent topics that I find myself discussing with families. I plan to write about other tips in the near future so stay tuned. You can subscribe to our wellness blog (see the far right column of this page) 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, teens, and families. We have clinicians who specialize in working with families overcoming challenging patterns. 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 Yoendry Torres, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist

Image credit: “Vlečení kola” by cs:ŠJů – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

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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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The Best Gifts You Can Give Your Child

A quick Google search for “Christmas Gift for Child” and up pop websites advertising things such as Minecraft Lego sets that the distributor suggests can be combined with other sets to create a Minecraft world, Hot Wheel’s race tracks complete with 2 quick kick loops, Disney’s Frozen plastic dolls featuring a “multi-colored bodice,” black and silver ride-on cars described as “sleek” that are capable of achieving speeds of 12mph, and a slew of other fancifully packaged options that will, undoubtedly, grace the tree skirts and stockings of many American children this Christmas season. If Amazon’s website sees as much traffic this year as they did on Cyber Monday of 2013, sales will reach an average of 426 items purchased per second. The marketing masterminds behind kid’s toys and games will surely rake in billions again this year and many of us will do our part in supporting American economy this holiday season. But the best gifts in life really are free…

Dr. Baker’s Top Tips for Instilling a Healthy Sense of Self-Worth in Your Child:

  1. Be a Good Role Model. When speaking about yourself in front of your child, avoid self-deprecating statements. Instead, speak openly about what gives you purpose and your strengths. When you make a mistake or wish to improve on a skill, speak about what was learned from your experience, how your current knowledge will impact future choices and what you propose doing to improve on your skills.
  2. Recognize and Embrace Natural Talents. Given enough opportunities for shining moments, a child’s overall self-confidence can only go up. If you notice that your child is especially talented at science, for example, enroll her in a science camp or club where her talents will blossom and be appreciated by others. Especially for a child who has developed an unbalanced sense of herself as incapable, this will tip the scales back and help her recognize herself as a multi-faceted person with strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Set Him Up for Success. Remind yourself what expectations are realistic for your child, which may not be the same as what other kids his age are doing. While your neighbor’s 4-year-old may be capable of sitting still and keeping quiet while her mother makes a 10-minute phone call, many kids at this age may not be. Prepare your child for things that you know may be tricky for him, avoid situations where failure is inevitable and brainstorm ideas in advance as to what will help him persevere through difficult parts of his day that are just unavoidable.
  4. Give Her Responsibilities. By asking your child to contribute to the household in manageable and realistic ways, you send a message that she has valuable contributions to make and that you trust in her ability to   participate in meaningful ways. Choose tasks that she is already drawn to and has demonstrated an ability to complete successfully. Don’t worry about perfection and refrain from intervening too much to reinforce the message of trust.
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 seminarswellness 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, Clinical Psychologist

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