How to Help Your Child Transition into a 2-Home Scenario After Divorce

Going through a divorce can be a tumultuous time for any adult, and for children it can feel like their world is falling apart. It can be confusing for children to have two homes, particularly in the early stages of divorce. But there are ways to bring positivity and excitement to this change, while reducing your child’s stress significantly.

Provide Stability

Help your child adjust to the changes in your family by providing as much stability as possible. Having established routines and continuity between their two homes will help your son or daughter feel safe and secure. You don’t need to have a strict schedule, just routines that your child can expect when they wake up, before they go to bed and when they come home. For example, there’s always a bath or a story before bedtime, and a healthy snack when they get home. Resist the temptation to overcompensate by lavishing your child with gifts, or letting them get away with things they normally would not. Structure in your home will help your children feel calm and stable.

Ease The Transition

Help ease the transition for your children by having a neutral pickup and drop off spot, such as your child’s school. You can drop your son or daughter off at school in the morning, and your ex can pick them at the end of the school day. This also eliminates stress for the child and sad goodbyes. Children are very perceptive and will be keenly aware of any sadness, anger, or frustration you may be feeling if you drop them off at your ex’s new place.

Give Kids Choices

Allowing your child to have a say will help them feel empowered, lessening any feelings they may have about things being out of their control. Have them pick out a new bedspread or pillows to decorate their space, or ask them to decide on a special dinner over the weekend. You can make them their favorite meal, try something new, or they can choose a restaurant they’d like to go to.

Reduce Stress on Arrivals

You can help your child adjust to the changes between two homes by making their arrival from your ex’s house as positive and structured as possible. Come up with a special but simple routine for when they come home. Something pleasant and comforting, such as sharing a snack or playing a game. Resist the temptation to bombard them with questions; let them unwind and process the change in their own time.

 

Your child has two parents living in two separate homes, but they only have one childhood. By remaining a positive force in your child’s life and maintaining stability, you can help them transition into their new normal.

Are you struggling with divorce, and need the support and guidance of a licensed professional? I can help. Please give my office a call today, and let’s schedule a time to talk.

4 Reasons You Should Try Family Therapy with Your Teenager

As parents, it can be challenging raising a teenager. Teenagers are at the stage where they begin to question the beliefs and values they were raised with, while challenging authority and parental restrictions.

Sometimes, teens are struggling with even more issues in their lives. A teen struggling with substance abuse, a mental health disorder, or behavioral problems can cause a great deal of strain on family relationships. While individual therapy will help your teen deal with their personal difficulties, family therapy can help improve the family dynamic and create a more positive home life. A healthy, happy family will not only help your teen cope with personal challenges, but it will benefit your family as a whole.

1.  Develop Trust and Honesty

As families talk through their issues in therapy, everyone will learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Discussing difficult matters with a professional and unbiased third party can help each member of the family communicate their feelings in a safe and constructive environment. Your therapist will help family members learn something they didn’t know about each other by encouraging people to communicate things they’ve held inside, or by asking questions no one else thought to ask. This effective and honest communication will help develop trust in familial relationships.

2.  Improved Communication and Problem-Solving Skills for the Future

Through therapy, your family will learn better ways to communicate their feelings and resolve issues. Your family will learn and develop healthy communication and conflict resolution skills that they can use to help prevent further conflicts from starting.

3.  Bring Your Family Closer Together

Applying the techniques learned in therapy will bring your family together. As trust and honesty develop, tensions and stress will be reduced and your home will become a more positive and supporting environment. As each family member gains a better understanding of healthy boundaries, relationships will greatly improve. These positive interactions will increase the peace your family feels when spending time together.

4.  Skills Learned Can Be Applied to Other Relationships

Some or all of the skills learned in family therapy can be applied at school, with friends, on the playground or in the workplace. Better communication and conflict resolution skills can help each family member in every aspect of their life. These techniques will continue to help your child as they move through adulthood, even up to when they grow and have families of their own.

 

If you and your teenager are having a difficult time and need the help of a licensed professional to navigate your way toward a healthier relationship, call my office today so we can set up an appointment.

What To Do If Your Kid Is The Bully

Bullying has become a national epidemic. According to recent data, between 1/4 and 1/3 of school children say they have been bullied. And, according to surveys, roughly 30% of young people admit to bullying others.

While much research has gone into how we can prevent bullying, and many programs have been implemented and tested in schools, the results have been modest at best. These results leave many wondering if prevention must start at home.

Home Life Plays a Large Role in Creating Bullies

Research suggests that family life can increase the risk of someone becoming a bully. Certain home-life characteristics are more commonly found in youths who bully others compared to those who don’t. The following trends can serve as warning signs that trouble may lie ahead:

– Harsh discipline (shaming, insulting, physical threat or harm)
– Lack of warmth or tenderness between parent and child
– Excessive teasing from siblings
– Domestic violence between other family members
– Drug and alcohol abuse
– Prejudice or hatred against others shown by parents or other family members
– Emotional neglect
– Excessive pressure to meet expectations or perform well in the world

The hopeful news is that research has shown that intervening to prevent or end these risk factors in the home can greatly reduce bullying and other youth violence.

Communication

If another parent or teacher has told you your child is being a bully, the very first thing to do is sit down and talk with your child. Don’t scold them right off the bat, but rather tell your child you would like to hear their side of the story.

Depending on how old your child is, he or she may open up and admit to the bullying and also offer an explanation, such as they want to fit in and be liked. Many children with low self-esteem bully to feel empowered and noticed.

Some children may not be able to express their thoughts or feelings easily. This is particularly true of younger children who may be struggling with anxiety or other mental health issues. If you find you are having trouble communicating with your child, consider seeking the guidance of a child psychologist who has experience evaluating behavior.

Remain Vigilant

If your child is a bully, changing their behavior won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight. But remaining vigilant is important.

Continue to build an open channel of communication with your child. This will help you recognize signs of trouble. Check-in with them daily and ask about their day – what they have planned, something that happened that they enjoyed, and something that happened that they didn’t enjoy.

Laying this foundation of communication is vital. Once kids know they are expected to share details of their lives on a regular basis, they become more comfortable opening up even into adolescence.

If you or someone you know is the parent of a bully and would like to explore treatment options, please reach out to me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I might be able to help.

Parenting An Angry Teen

Raising a teenager can be one of the most challenging experiences a parent will go through. Teenagers are in an awkward stage, dealing with hormonal changes that are out of their control and a developing brain. They’re awakening to new realizations about themselves and the world around them.

Teenage rebellion is a natural phase, however, handling it as a parent is anything but natural. If you’re struggling with raising an angry teen, here are some strategies that can help.

Keep Your Cool

It may be difficult to keep your cool when your teen is yelling at you, but as the adult, it’s important that you maintain control. Refrain from yelling, cursing, or name-calling your teen. Verbal abuse will only escalate the argument and will have a long-term impact on your child and your relationship. If your child is being verbally abusive, apply consequences to their behavior and speak in a calm, matter-of-fact tone.

Accountability, Not Control

Rather than trying to control your teen and their behavior, make them accountable. Set clear boundaries, and establish rules and consequences.

Listen

It can be difficult to listen when your child is yelling or angry. Your initial reaction may be to defend yourself or criticize. Rather than offering advice or judgment, actively listen to your teen. Be silent as they express themselves, and ask questions to better understand how they’re feeling. You can also calmly express that it’s difficult to listen to them when they’re angry and yelling. By genuinely trying to listen and understand them, you can teach them how to control their emotions and express themselves calmly.

Give Them Space

When your teen is angry and wants to storm off, let them go instead of following them and trying to continue or resolve the argument. It’s healthy for both of you to give each other space and time to cool off so you can revisit the discussion when you’re both feeling calmer.

Pick Your Battles

Your teen is going through a difficult phase, and needs empathy. Remember back to the times when you were a teen to help you empathize. There will be times when your teen is making a bigger deal of something than it needs to be, and as the adult it’s your job to know when to stand your ground, and when to let things go. Talk with your spouse to set boundaries and determine priorities of issues that can be compromised, and issues that are non-negotiable.

If you’re having difficulty with your angry teenager and want some help and guidance, call my office today so we can set up an appointment to talk.

Common Signs Your Kid Is Being Bullied

For many parents, bullying brings up memories of the schoolyard. You may have memories of yourself or a friend being bullied in the classroom or on the school bus.

But today, social media has created a whole new realm for bullying, expanding the problem and making it easier for children to be harassed.

If you’re concerned that your child may be being bullied, look for these signs.

Difficulty Sleeping

Difficulty falling or staying asleep, or tiredness in the morning could be a sign of bullying or depression. Your child may be too anxious to fall or stay asleep; they may be crying themselves to sleep or having nightmares. Wetting the bed is another sign of fear or anxiety in a child.

Unexplained Injuries

Does your child come home from school with bruises, scrapes, cuts or torn clothes? When you ask your child about the injury or ruined clothing, do they appear nervous or avoid answering your questions? Attempt to assess if these are normal injuries as a result of play, or a sign of playground bullying. Ask them open-ended questions such as, “What happened at recess today?”

Avoids Social Situations

If you notice your child has lost friends or has developed a reluctance to spend time with them, this may be a sign of bullying. You may also notice your child is afraid to ride the bus or avoids school entirely by skipping classes or feigning an illness. They may go to the school nurse with a mystery ache to get you to pick them up early from school. If you’re beginning to notice a pattern, try talking to them about it. “I’m starting to notice you’re feeling sick a lot lately. Is everything okay at school?”

Changes in Eating Habits

If you notice your child’s eating habits are changing, such as skipping meals or binge eating, this can be a sign that something’s wrong. If your child comes home from school very hungry, it could be because they didn’t eat lunch. They could be too nervous during lunch time to eat, getting their lunch or lunch money stolen, or possibly avoiding the cafeteria entirely because of bullying or harassment.

Changes in Social Media Habits

When a child is being bullied online, they may start spending too much time on their devices or avoiding them entirely. Monitor their social media sites by friending or following, and if you suspect bullying, check their phone for harassing messages. You may also want to look into parental control and monitoring apps.

If you believe your child is being bullied at school, contact their teacher, the school principal or the school counselor or psychologist. You can also visit StopBullying.gov for more help and resources. If you or your child need professional help to deal with a bullying situation, please call my office today so we can schedule an appointment.

How to Prepare Your Toddler to Be an Older Sibling

Telling your toddler that they are no longer going to be your only baby, is one of the toughest tasks you’d face as a parent. Becoming an older sibling is a huge transition for toddlers to make, and the arrival of a new baby brings a lot of changes to a family. It’s natural for parents to shift most of their attention to the new baby. However, it’s often hard for the older sibling(s) to adjust to these changes. They may start feeling jealous or neglected and react to these feelings by acting out.

You can make this transition smooth for your toddler, and make them excited to become an older sibling by preparing them adequately. To make this process easier, here are 5 simple ways you can prepare your toddler.

1. Break the news properly – Tell your toddler in a simple way, that ‘mommy is carrying a new baby, and you’re going to become a big brother/sister.’ Toddlers have a limited understanding of time, so it’s better to tell them when you’re almost due. By then you’d be showing, and they don’t have to wait too long to meet the baby.

2. Reassure them – Spend more time cuddling and doing fun activities with your toddler. Reassure them by saying things like ‘you will always be my special baby’. This will help with any feelings of jealousy and confusion they may be experiencing.

3. Make them part of the process – Take them through the pregnancy journey with you. Read books about babies together, and let them help you pick stuff for the new baby. Show them pictures from the ultrasound, let them feel the baby kick and ask them questions like, do you think the baby is going to have brown hair like you?

4. Give them a present – Give them something they’ve always wanted and say it’s from the baby. It will make them feel like they have a new friend.

5. Give your toddler tasks – It’s important to make your child feel like they’re taking on the new, huge role of being a big sister or brother rather than losing their position as the baby of the house. Let your toddler help you with little things like handing you diapers, and picking out clothes for the baby. Remind them that they get to do cool things like teaching the baby how to play their favorite games and songs.

Your kids are going to be the best of friends eventually, but remember that it’s not going to happen immediately. Be patient with your toddler and let them see that having a new sibling means they get a new playmate and best friend who’s also family. Walk with them through the process, and always reassure them of your love.

If your toddler is having trouble adjusting to having a new baby in the house, you can contact me to book a session.

5 Tips for Supporting a Depressed Parent

Dealing with a loved one who is depressed is always tough. When that loved one happens to be a parent, the roles flip and you become responsible for their mental health care. Older people get depressed for a variety of reasons such as declining physical ability, a chronic physical illness (e.g stroke), friends and family dying, history of anxiety/depression, and dissatisfaction with how they lived their life. For example, they may feel like they didn’t accomplish enough.

A lot of seniors are flippant about depression, equate it to weakness, and refuse to talk about their mental health for fear of burdening their loved ones. How can you support a depressed parent? Here are some helpful tips.

1.  Look out for the symptoms– Older people are unlikely to bring up their mental health struggles, so you need to be very observant. Look out for the following, they are signs that your parent might be depressed.

  • A sudden change in eating or sleeping habits
  • A visible struggle with getting older
  • A struggle with a physical illness
  • Frequent talks about death or an expressed desire to self-harm

2. Encourage them to see a therapist– Gently suggest that your parent see a therapist to discuss the symptoms they are experiencing. Make sure you suggest it in a way that doesn’t make them feel bad or weak. Schedule an appointment on their behalf and go with them the first time. Monitor them to make sure they attend sessions regularly and take their medication (if this applies). 

3. Offer your love and care- Make a greater effort to be there for them and do things that will make their lives easier. For example, you can help them get groceries and do laundry. Make sure you offer help in a way that doesn’t make them feel like they aren’t capable of taking care of themselves. For many elderly people, admitting that they’re depressed and need help can be difficult.

4. Talk to them about their feelings– Have open and honest conversations about how they’re feeling. Make sure you listen to them and honor their emotions. Listening offers direct support and comfort.

5. Watch out for suicidal signs– If your parent displays any sign of suicidal thinking such as talking about death often and giving away family heirlooms or other important possessions, you need to get them immediate help. Contact their therapist, call a suicide hotline, or take them to your local psychiatric emergency room to prevent tragedy.

Watching your parent suffer from depression can be heartbreaking. It’s natural to want to force them to get help, but being pushy can cause them to withdraw from you. Take a gentle approach that makes them feel respected and like a competent adult. Practice patience, offer emotional support and ensure that they follow their therapist’s advice.

If you have a depressed parent and you’re looking for a therapist who is experienced in geriatric issues, contact me to book a session.

How to Have a Healthier Family Through Better Co-Parenting

Moving forward after divorce is difficult for everyone, and trying to figure out how to co-parent complicates things even further. Here are some tips to help you co-parent with your ex.

Put Your Child First

Putting your child first is an absolute necessity for successful co-parenting. Always consider their wants and needs above your own.

Putting your child first doesn’t mean that you stop taking care of yourself. Your child also deserves a parent that’s happy and healthy. Self-care is vital, so be sure to rest, eat healthy, exercise and make time in your busy schedule to do something special for yourself. This way, you give your child her parent at their very best.

The Golden Rule

The best co-parenting relationships have the best communication. To practice the golden rule, share the information you would like, and expect, to have shared with you. Neglecting to share information could risk unintended negative consequences for your child.

For example, if you get your child immunized for school and don’t tell your ex, your ex might also get your child immunized for school. This could have unintended consequences for your child.

If you’re having difficulty communicating with your ex in person or by phone, try text or e-mail.

Be Consistent

Children need structure to feel safe, secure and loved. Therefore, it’s important that you and your ex create a united front for the sake of your child and try to keep schedules as similar as possible. Resist the urge to give in to demands out of guilt: it’s familiarity and routine that will make your child feel loved and cared for.

Accept Differences

Even with the best of intentions, things will not be as perfect as we would like. If your ex lets your kids eat sweets or stay up late, you must learn to accept the different ways your homes are run. If you let go of control you’ll put less anxiety on your children, and relieve yourself of the stress of trying to control something you can’t.

Respect Each Other

Regardless of what happened in your personal relationship with your ex, your ex is still your child’s parent. To that end, you must respect your ex for the sake of your child. Don’t speak ill of your ex in front of your child, and don’t talk to your children about issues or difficulties with your ex.

Although your relationship with your ex didn’t work out, your relationship as co-parents of your child is forever. Let your child feel the love from both of her parents without feeling like she has to choose. A stable home and positive role models will help ensure your child grows up to be a happy, productive adult.

If you need help developing better and more positive communication with your ex, give me a call today and let’s set up an appointment to talk.

The Traumatic Impact of Divorce on Adult Children

Young children are full of wonder and awe and a lot of energy! They are also full of innocence, which is why it’s important that adults protect them from dangerous situations and unnecessary heartaches.

Unfortunately, that isn’t always easy, especially when it comes to divorce. Children of parents who decide to divorce can feel like their entire world has been turned upside down.

But how does divorce affect older children? When the children in question are adults themselves, it’s assumed they’ll be unaffected by the news; that somehow because they flew out of the nest and no longer live under the same roof as their parents, they won’t feel their world has been turned upside down.

In the past, the effects of divorce on adult children were not discussed much, but that is now changing. Susan L. Brown, a sociology professor at Bowling Green State University, conducted a study that revealed the divorce rate among people 50 and older has doubled over the past 20 years.

The Effects on Older Children

While adults may be “older” in years, when it comes to child-parent dynamics, most of us never really grow up. We still need our moms and dads for support and we still need our moms and dads to love each other. What happens when that love goes away, or changes significantly?

We call everything we once believed into question.

The strength of our parents’ marriage is a big factor in shaping our young lives and minds. If their relationship wasn’t as strong as we thought it was, what does that mean about relationships in general? What else about our childhood that we thought was true is not true? And what does this mean about our own marriage and relationships? Our we destined to fail at it as well? Is splitting up somehow in our DNA?

For those adult children whose parents waited until they were grown before divorcing, they may now feel guilty that their parents were miserable for so many years on their behalf. Carrying this guilt around, whether justified or not, can feel overwhelming.

It is assumed that our parents will grow old together and take care of each other during their golden years. Once they split, then what happens? Who takes care of them? In many cases, that falls to, you guessed it, the adult children.

And what about the grandchildren? Not only do adult kids have to deal with their own grief and sadness, they also must help their children come to terms with the fact grandma and grandpa are divorcing.

Seek Guidance

If you’re an adult whose parents have split or are currently in the process of getting divorced and you’re having a hard time coping, don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. Age has nothing to do with feeling sad or lost.

The best thing you can do at a time like this is to speak with someone who can help you sort out your feelings. A family therapist can help you alleviate any guilt and angst you may feel and understand that history doesn’t have to repeat itself. You have the power to make different choices in your own life and relationships.

If you’d like to explore treatment options, please be in touch with me. I’d love to discuss how I may be able to help you cope during this confusing and overwhelming time.

Signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder in Mothers

A heavy diet, The Great Depression, and jumbo shrimp are all examples of oxymorons that are often used. These terms, characterized by two conflicting ideas being presented side by side, are sometimes humorous. In other instances, such as that of the narcissistic mother, this juxtaposition paints a dark picture of the potential for harm that these individuals possess.

The description of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in the 5thversion of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-5) includes nine possible symptoms. Each of these symptoms is in direct opposition with traits that quality mothers possess.

Self-Importance

Someone with NPD exaggerates his or her achievements and talents and expects to be recognized as superior. A narcissistic mother may be unable to put her own child’s needs first because of this false belief about herself.

Fantasies about self

These fantasies can be related to unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love. A mother who attempts to pursue domains related to these fantasies may forsake her children in this futile pursuit.

Sees self as special

This includes beliefs that someone can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high status people. A mother who exhibits this trait may refuse to associate with their children or others in their children’s lives (i.e., other parents, teachers, etc.)

Requires excessive admiration

As is often said, motherhood is a thankless job, and mothers who require admiration from their children may be sorely disappointed when this admiration never comes. The reaction to this can be as minor as resentment, but it may also lead to more serious reactions such as abuse or neglect, as these mothers eventually refuse to perform motherly duties.

Sense of entitlement

This symptom includes unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations. This trait can be passed on to children, who may also believe they are entitled to similar favorable treatment.

Exploits others

A person with NPD often takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends. A mother with NPD may be driven to use her child to achieve her own needs, despite the threat it may pose to the child.

Lacks empathy

Someone with NPD is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others. This is concerning for mothers, as the identification of their children’s feelings is necessary to help them develop in a healthy way.

Envious

Individuals with NPD often envy others or believe that others are envious of them. This is another trait that is likely to be passed on to children, which can lead to future relational deficits.

Arrogant

Arrogance is another trait that may be modeled by narcissistic mothers. Children who observe an arrogant mother may believe this characteristic is normal and may themselves display it.

In isolation, these symptoms may not present a clear danger to the child of a narcissistic mother, but when these traits are combined the potential deleterious effects become clear. It is important for clinicians to be aware of these dangers and keep a watchful eye on mothers who display these traits, as the effects of their narcissism can have lasting impacts on their children.

If you were raised by a mother with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or if you are concerned for your own children, therapy can help. Contact me today for an initial consultation.