Make Sure Your Therapist is Current
January 12, 2010 · Posted in Education, EMDR, Media, Mental Health · Permalink · Comments (1)

ocean-current-1Judith Warner’s Sunday Times, Op-Ed The Wrong Story about Depression is the perfect response to the recent hoopla over the study on the effectiveness of antidepressants. A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that a placebo is just as likely to help mild depression as popular antidepressant drugs. The media picked up, simplified and amplified that little piece of information and left out the much more important facts about depression in America.

Warner writes, “Antidepressants do work for very severely depressed people, as well as for those whose mild depression is chronic. However, the researchers found, the pills don’t work for people who aren’t really depressed — people with short-term, minor depression whose problems tend to get better on their own. For many of them, it’s often been observed, merely participating in a drug trial (with its accompanying conversation, education and emphasis on self-care) can be anti-depressant enough.” Quite a different message than, “Antidepressants are no better than sugar pills!”

But then Warner takes it further when she talks about the death of mental health professionals who are skilled in using proven and effective methods of alleviating depression.

“In 2008, a team of psychologists brought this point home in blunt terms in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest. “Despite the availability of highly effective interventions,” they wrote, “relatively few psychologists learn or practice these interventions.” This is the big picture of mental health care in America: not perfectly healthy people popping pills for no reason, but people with real illnesses lacking access to care; facing barriers like ignorance, stigma and high prices; or finding care that is ineffective.”

We can’t agree more. Treatments like EMDR and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and mindfulness based treatments are researched approaches and techniques that are proven to help with anxiety and depression. While it would be difficult for a therapist to be intensively trained in all these approaches, they should, at the very least, know about them and at best be skilled in one or more. Therapists need to be perpetual students and keep up with new developments in the field. Clients as consumers need to ask what recent training the person has. The combination of being seasoned by experience and current by education makes a worthy therapist.

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The Baby Einstein Theory of Relativity
October 27, 2009 · Posted in Communication, Education, K-5 Kids, Media, Parenting, Preschoolers, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments (1)

76121091We hate to say we told you so, but in truth there was much “high-five-ing” after reading the New York Times article No Einstein in Your Crib? Get a Refund.   Apparently Disney, the owner of Baby Einstein, is refunding parents due to their false claims of intellectual enhancement for infants. We have watched the growth of the “educational” DVD market for infants balloon over the last decade in spite of recommendations from the APA about the negative consequences of television watching for infants and toddlers. TV for infants is seductive. Babies are riveted, they seem excited, and if that is so then the guilt you feel can be assuaged.  Let’s face it — underneath any parents glowing reports of the fabulousness of Baby Einstein etc. is a lurking knowledge that this isn’t really a good thing to do.

These manufacturers cashed in on the vulnerability of parents wanting to give their children every educational opportunity possible. Parents overrode their common sense time and again in the service of raising a smarter kid. That there is no educational benefit to these products is now well documented, and other research indicates that even background television diminishes vocalizations and conversational turn taking in infants and toddlers.

ParenTalk’s TakeAway: Parents of infants and toddlers should acknowledge that TV is an electronic babysitter. Go take a shower, return a phone call, cook dinner — but do so sparingly and remember that the simple acts of singing, playing and talking are really what a baby needs to thrive.

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Protect the Planet – Protect Your Children
October 13, 2009 · Posted in Charity Project, Education, Parenting, The Environment · Permalink · Comments (1)

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Here’s the real deal when it comes to protecting and raising our children: They need a healthy planet with clean water, breathable air, safe food and an adjustment in the trajectory of climate change.  These basics are in peril. Truly.

Article upon article, research from all over the globe, are sounding loud alarm bells. Somewhere in our minds we realize this is going on but many of us put it aside because of the pulls from our daily lives.  Diving in and becoming knowledgeable is scary, but staying with our heads in the sand can do nothing to help our childrens’ health and well being. If the voices of parents start to be raised clearly and consistently we can pressure the people with power. Think how strong a parents for the planet lobby could be!

So what can we do? Get informed.  Decide one thing to work on and take a stand.

1. EDUCATE yourself by reading and watching this sampling of books, articles and video.

Clean Water Laws Are Neglected, at a Cost in Suffering, The New York Times

Food Inc.: A Participant Guide: How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer

The Union of Concerned Scientists Global Warming 101

National Geographic Sate of the Earth Video Series

2. JOIN Momsrising.org, a political organization that champions causes that we as parents need to get involved in. Members receive email updates about issues like plastics in baby bottles, paid leave as well as topics related to the environment.

3. READ the paper and WRITE letters to the editor. When the volume gets turned up, more attention is paid.

4. TEACH your children about caring for the planet: recycling, composting, public transportation, turning the lights off. Take on a project with your family. One of the single most influential factors in happiness is altruism. Here are some links to organizations that welcome help:

Environmental Volunteers

The Nature Conservancy

The Volunteer Family

Let’s face it – the kind of life our children will lead relies completely on these issues.

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Preschool “Phase-in”: Sometimes You Have to Pull Off the BandAid
September 15, 2009 · Posted in Education, Preschoolers, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments (2)

bandaidIf you have a child who is starting preschool, chances are you’re involved with the dreaded “phase-in”. If you are lucky, you are the parent sighing with relief, watching your “well adjusted” child easily transition to school.  If not, you are the parent in a sweaty state of horror and embarrassment as your child hangs onto your leg whimpering and the words “separation issues” keeps playing over in your mind.

Of course we all want our children to get acclimated to a new setting. No one thinks it would be a good thing to just drop them and go –leaving them to sink or swim. But neither is it necessary to turn the beginning of preschool into a logistical nightmare with weeks of coming to school for 20 minutes a day. Nor do you have to be held hostage for months until your child feels “safe” enough to let you go.

Let’s think about it from the three year old’s perspective.  Your “grown up” is sitting on a toddler size chair, reading a magazine and stonewalling you when you run over to show them something or to sit in their lap. Weird. If a child is having a hard time saying goodbye, why would they get fully involved with new adults, activities and peers while you are sitting there. Young children cannot picture the future like we do – they need to experience things and then remember them. Therefore, until kids have lived through the experience of being in class, surviving the tortuous goodbye, being comforted by a teacher, calming down and having fun, they cannot imagine being there and feeling ok without you.

Of course, each school has it’s own “separation policy” and you should follow that to start. But if you are sitting in the classroom for more than two weeks and you have not been “released”, suggest to the teachers that you come in the morning a little early, have a short and sweet goodbye and see how things go after a few days.  It is a very typical part of growing up to be worried and clingy at the beginning of school–if we normalize it a bit and make it a little less precious, parents and kids will get off to a better start of the school year.

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There’s No Place Like Home
August 27, 2009 · Posted in Education, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Pressure on Children · Permalink · Comments (4)

OGRUBYSLIPPERS071708With their trusted and loved caretakers by their side, home is the best place for children to explore, play and learn.

Let’s take art for example–glue, paint, stickers, play dough, markers, pastels–all things that can be used at home, so do them at home.  Little art projects here and there are a wonderful way to enrich your child’s world by creating things together. When you do this at home with just your child alone, or with a little friend– the pace is theirs, the product is theirs and when they are done– the time to stop is theirs. No pressure, no “Jenna needs to sit in the circle.” Art can be part of any day. This approach keeps play in its proper place: a low key, organic part of their day. It eliminates the stress of traveling to and fro and avoids a calendar full of classes that have expectations of kids that may be more appropriate for older children.

You can extrapolate this advice to other activities:

If your child likes music-turn on the cd player–you can dance, sing, play little maracas or bells.

If your child likes dance-buy a tutu and turn on a Nutcracker CD.

If your child like to pretend- make a dress up box with old shoes, shirts, ties, necklaces and Halloween costumes from all years past.

If you child likes balls, kick them around the yard or the park–no need to sign such littles one up for team soccer at such an early age.

This helps to keep play, play. Not a performance, not  adult directed and and not over scheduled. You may get grief from other parents, but as you will certainly tell your child, “If your friend told you to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you?”

Preserve your child’s childhood!

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Don’t Make It A Federal Case!
August 25, 2009 · Posted in Discipline, Education, Parenting · Permalink · Comments Off on Don’t Make It A Federal Case!

images-1Appropriate doses of embarrassment or guilt in childhood are central to developing self-control and morality. Take the example of the 6 year old who slips a candy bar into her pocket while at the grocery store. Many kids will do this at some point during childhood.  If her parent discovers her act and does not overreact the little girl can be told to give the candy back at the store and apologize. Will the little girl feel shame? Yes, of course. Healthy shame. She will learn an important lesson and most likely remember that experience with embarrassment. This will help her override the impulse if it arises again and the apology to the store owner with the return of the candy bar teaches her she can make amends for bad behavior.

What if this little girl is screamed at, called a thief and humiliated in front of the store owner by her parents? She will have an overwhelming sense of her own badness.  An over-reaction creates toxic or unhealthy shame. This may dissuade the little girl from stealing again, but the cost to her ego is too high. It is our job to teach our children right from wrong but we must strive to do this while protecting their sense of basic goodness.

To under-react or disregard the behavior for fear of hurting the child’s feelings is to miss the opportunity to highlight this important lesson.  Becoming overly incensed or ignoring the action sidetracks us from the simple lesson we are trying to teach–we don’t take things that do not belong to us.

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Parental Cyberbullying
June 4, 2009 · Posted in Bullying, Education, Parenting, Therapy · Permalink · Comments (1)

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There have always been self-righteous meddling parents. Parents who can’t believe that their child would ever do anything wrong.  Our modern technology has taken it to a new level. Parents in groups have reported receiving angry emails with complaints about their child.

Subject:  Sallie’s food issues!
“Your child mentioned the word diet at my house, what is going on in YOUR house that your 7 year old would be talking about food like that?”

Subject: Joey’s Party
“Joey  didn’t invite my Charlotte to her birthday party. I can’t believe you were so insensitive”

No birthday party had even been planned. The birthday wasn’t for another 2 months. The two girls had just had a typical five year-old fight culminating with the age old refrain, “You can’t come to my birthday party!”

There is a lot of focus on bullying these days and cyberbullying, specifically.  We do need to be concerned about our kids being bullied or being bullies, but maybe we need to look in the mirror first.

We know that when our children are hurt, we hurt. There is no way around that. But if we can contain, control and tolerate our vicarious pain then we can be much more helpful to our kids.  We can help them figure out how to solve the problem, sometimes by saying or doing something and sometimes by letting it go. If we act outraged when  our child reports a slight, we escalate their pain and the child’s sense of self-importance. If we actually send an email attacking another parent and child we are crossing boundaries, behaving rudely and inflating our self-importance.

Email is so wonderful but so dangerous. Tone can be misunderstood, text can be misinterpreted and messages can be copied to others, dragging other parents and teachers into a personal conflict with the click of a mouse. If we want our children to grow up being respectful of other people’s boundaries, which is no small task, then we have to model that behavior.

All the little fights, exclusions, and insults between children are part and parcel of growing up.  Tolerating social bruises is one of life’s big lessons.  So here’s your lesson.  Write your emails complaints about other people’s children and save them as a draft. Then press delete. If the problem is repetitive, or really serious, please call. Like in the olden days.

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Land Your Helicopters: The End of a Parenting Era
June 2, 2009 · Posted in Discipline, Education, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers, Spoiling, Toddlerhood · Permalink · Comments (2)

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Ahhh, thank goodness!  Lisa Belkin, writer and author of the blog Motherlode trumpets the end of an era of over-indulgent parenting. In her May 31st, 2009 New York Times Magazine article “Let The Kid Be” she writes, “It seems as though the newest wave of mothers is saying no to prenatal Beethoven appreciation classes, homework tutors in kindergarten, or moving to a town near their child’s college campus so the darling can more easily have home-cooked meals.” A sentence that warms my heart.

Not that we haven’t been railing against this for years but it’s nice to have some back up. This does not mean the end to being a responsive parent– one that thoughtfully decides when to move in and when to lay back– it just hopefully signals that parents will no longer believe they are handicapping their children by letting them hand an assignment in late or not being enrolled in gymnastics, soccer, ballet, painting, and mandarin–all by the age of 2.

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A Simple Message: Read Aloud
May 26, 2009 · Posted in Education, K-5 Kids, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments (2)

3350034256_2e27570dba This weekend’s New York TImes had a sweet and thoughtful piece about reading aloud. Just a little reminder to fight the ever present pull toward the solitary plugged in life. Reading aloud to your children allows for them to create their own imagery, to hear the cadence and beauty of language, while at the same time having an intimate experience with you. You are associating reading closeness and comfort. This instills a love of literature and language into your child’s body and mind. Verlyn Klinkenborg’s piece also reminds us that grown ups can do this with each other as well. A simple message but such a good one.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/16/opinion/16sat4.html

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Kindergarten: A Garden for Children
May 6, 2009 · Posted in Education, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Pressure on Children · Permalink · Comments (4)

imageskin-der-gar-ten (noun): german – kinder children + garten garden, a school or class for children ages four to six. Modern meaning: academic pressure cooker

Peggy Orenstein’s piece in the May 2, 2009 issue of The New York Times Magazine, “Kindergarten Cram”, is perfect. It shows how the modern kindergarten class has all but eradicated play from its curriculum.  Play is children’s language, play is children’s work. It provides the canvass for imagination, for role playing and making sense of the world they see around them. Play is the natural arena for learning social skills like compromise and leadership, and is an outlet for children to express their inner worlds: their hopes, worries, struggles and resolutions.

The change in kindergarten from a safe and playful introduction to elementary school to an academic pressure cooker typifies the dangerous trend toward the adultification of children.  Orenstein cites the recent study by the Alliance for Childhood that confirms that all the recent focus on academic testing of five year olds  “neither predicts nor improves children’s educational outcomes”. Research based evidence about learning, the rise in childhood anxiety and depression, and common sense tell us that this is the wrong way to go. We need to buck the system and protect our children.

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