Do you suffer from anxiety? Does your child? Partner? Exciting news! The Wise Family will be hosting a screening of the movie, ANGST, at First Baptist Church in Alexandria. ANGST is an IndieFlix Original documentary about anxiety. It’s a 55 minute film and virtual reality experience that explores anxiety, its causes, its effects and what we can do about it. The film includes interviews with kids, teens, experts and parents. The goal specifically is to help people identity and understand the symptoms of anxiety and encourage them to reach out for help.  Appropriate for ages 10 and up.
The screening will take place on Tuesday, May 8th at First Baptist Church in Alexandria at 7pm.

 


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This week The Wise Family clinical team helps explain Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT for short) and STRATEGIES to implement at every age. Read on to learn more!

 

Kasey Cain, Resident in Counseling – Therapist for The Wise Family: As the name indicates, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, often referred to as CBT, looks at the way people think (cognitive) and act (behavior). Central to this practice is the belief that our thoughts impact our emotional and physical feelings and those drive our actions.

Many children and adults seeking therapy have gotten into an unhealthy pattern of cognitive distortions – thinking errors. There are many types of thinking errors. Depending on the book you reference, they may be called by different names. However, a thinking error occurs when something you are thinking does not match up with the actual reality of the situation. Here are just a few examples:

– Negative Glasses: This type of thinking filters out all of the positives and focuses only on the negatives. Ten good things could have happened throughout the day with one negative experience like a disappointing grade. This type of thinking can lead to another thinking error…overgeneralizing.

– Overgeneralizing: Where someone takes one event and applies it to everything. “I am bad at everything/” or “I am so dumb and will never learn!” are examples of overgeneralization.

– Predicting Failure is another type of faulty thinking where someone convinces themselves not to even attempt something because they “know” they will fail – “If I ask them to play with me they will certainly say no!”

– Mind Reading is another thinking error that I encounter with children all the time. “They were talking about me!” is a common sentence I hear in my work. In reality, the child has no idea if they were being talked about and are making guesses about other people’s perceptions.

To combat thinking errors, I like to challenge the thoughts and work to re-frame them with a more positive/realistic lens. One of my favorite tools to use when discussing thoughts with children of all ages is my thought bubble dry erase board. This double-sided board makes it easy for clients to display a thought, look at it, read it, examine it (with support), and then flip to the other side and re-frame that thought.

Changing harmful/hurtful thoughts into helpful thoughts takes practice and perseverance. Kids and adults need to be kind to themselves and be willing to learn from mistakes. Carol Dweck, known for her work/book Mindset talks, about “The Power of YET.” Everyone can continue to learn and grow. We might not have mastered a skill in the moment but that just means we can’t do it YET. CBT can help reshape thinking so if a child hasn’t overcome his or her thinking errors YET, there is still hope and success will come.

Dominique AdkinsEdD – Therapist for The Wise Family:  CBT techniques help teens to recognize the vital role their thoughts play in their life experience. The negative and egocentric thinking patterns of teens combined with the developmental pressures can be a hinderance and a challenge for teens.

Teens tend to forget these damaging thought patterns are within their power. Educating teens on how their thoughts are affecting their emotions and behaviors is beneficial and empowering. Together we can support teens to develop healthier ways of thinking to achieve their desired outcomes. Let’s empower teens to have positive thoughts and positive results!

Amanda Beyland, LCSW – Therapist for The Wise Family:  Using CBT interventions helps kids to understand that there is a connection between the way that they think and the things that they do, or their actions. CBT encourages kids to look at how their thoughts and feelings may lead to certain behaviors. Our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behaviors all intersect!

When I start working with a new child we talk about the “toolbox” that we are going to build during our time together. Most of the tools in the CBT toolbox encourage kids to replace their negative thinking with positive, and usually more realistic, thoughts. While CBT is known as a “talk therapy” sometimes the talking part can be difficult for kids. While working on CBT tools, it’s helpful to make it into something the child may enjoy, like creating a story with alternative endings.

Lynlee Tanner Stapleton, PhD – Evaluator for The Wise Family:  CBT is an umbrella term that represents many specific and general treatments for mental health concerns. A key feature is that CBT generally focuses on a specific set of symptoms or problems to improve, and it has been well-researched to treat many common childhood conditions, such as ADHD, depression, anxiety and OCD.

The website www.effectivechildtherapy.org profiles the evidence base for treating a variety of concerns, symptoms, and conditions, with many of the best-supported approaches based on CBT techniques. Some of these treatments are even “manualized,” meaning that there is a standard, consistent approach to the intervention that has been well-tested but still allows for individualized adjustments. For many concerns, this solid foundation of research means that there is a very good chance you and your child will see significant improvement in the issues of concern, often within just a few months, and learn helpful strategies that can be applied across many situations and problems.

 

Questions about the above topic or any other parenting concern?

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Our very own Dr. Amy Fortney Parks participated in a Facebook Live yesterday with Eduardo Placer’s Fearless at 4. Check out their convo about fearless families, anxiety, school walk outs, talking less and listening more, suicide rate with teens, creating moments of consciousness and much more! It’s not about fixing our kids… it’s about growing! Tune in to learn more. Click the below image to access the video.

As always, contact us if have any questions on what was discussed. We also love hearing from you on if the information shared was helpful.

As always, Be Wise!

#ASKWISE – “My daughter has been waking up in the morning complaining of a stomach ache, and we can’t figure out what is going on. We don’t think it is physical because she eats fine, and has had a recent check up. Could it be something else? She seems overly worried about things lately, and now I am too!” ~Mom of 9-year-old daughter

Dear Mom – Being 9 years old is so hard (and being a worried mom of a 9-year-old is hard too). Moving into the middle elementary school years can add unexpected academic and social demands. Kids communicate their emotions in ways that sound like physical ailments, often because they don’t have the language to identify their feelings. This is called Emotional IQ, and it is just as developmental as regular IQ. The Mighty has a great video about this that might help explain…
Touch base with your child’s teacher, counselor, or a community resource to find out how to build a team to support your child’s emotional IQ! We have some other blogs about anxiety that might be interesting to you too, like –
and
Feel free to reach out to REPLY to this email if you have more questions!
Be Wise.

Understanding how your brain works – and the brain of your child – provides a great frame of reference for talking with your kids about self esteem and managing big feelings like anxiety, depression and fear.

The brain is made up of billions of cells called neurons. These cells have nerve endings called synapses and dendrites. Nerve endings release chemical and electrical signals to communicate with each other – kind of like the way that beach lifeguards signal each other to spread a message.

This brain communication forms “roads” in the brain called neuro-pathways and is the basis for how the brain works. When you first learn something, the “roads” are like dirt trails that get stronger – more like super highways – the more you think about or focus on that thing. This is how a habit is formed – and we call this brain training.

Our friends at www.self-esteem-experts.com share this example to illustrate this process:

“Learning to ride a bike – At first you must pay attention to stay balanced, keeping your eyes on the road, holding onto the handlebars and steering in your desired direction. Then the more you practice, the stronger your bicycle riding pathways become.

Eventually you are able to get on your bike and ride without thinking. You’re operating on automatic. A strong brain pathway has been created as though new brain software has been uploaded and is seamlessly operating in your mind.”

What does bike riding have to do with self-esteem, and responding to big emotions? The brain works in the same way to build a strong brain pathway to our thoughts about ourselves and the world around us, as it does for riding a bike. As our thoughts are formed from the messages we hear and believe from friends, coaches, teachers and parents, the thoughts become more and more automatic.

“People don’t like me.”

“I never say anything important.”

“Something is wrong with me.”

“I can’t handle this.”

These thoughts operate like a habit, and like any habit, the brain has to be RE-TRAINED to change the thoughts. When we change our thoughts, we can change our feelings and actions.

Stay tuned for strategies and activities for developing new brain pathways in your kids – and maybe yourself too!

 

Be Wise!

 

Amy Fortney Parks, PhD – Practice Owner: The world is a confusing place – and there is a lot of sadness. There are often situations (and opportunities) when we want – or need – to talk to our kids about BIG sadness – depression. And you may be worried about saying the “right” thing. We tell parents at The Wise Family that just having an honest conversation with a child about BIG feelings might provide super support.

Here are 3 tips to help –

Use “kid friendly” words – Make sure that the words you are using with your kids are easy to understand. Words like “depression” might be too complex for young children, but may be appropriate for tweens and teens. We use “big feelings of sadness” to explain depression sometimes. Before you launch into any conversation, make sure your kids/teens understand the language you are using.

Be positive, and honest – When you are talking about depression, the goal is to support sharing and conversation so discuss the seriousness of this illness, along with the availability of support and care. If your child asks about something you can’t answer, tell your child that you don’t know, and make a list of questions to discuss with a mental health professional – and follow up.

Be a good listener – Allow your child/teen to talk openly and express opinions and thoughts. These might not align with yours, but avoid interrupting or punishing your child/teen for their feelings. All feelings are ok – it is the actions that we want to help guide.

And while talking about depression with your family is very important, it does not replace the need for a mental health professional in your life. Find someone that you can trust, that also connects well with kids. If you need help finding someone, reach out to us here.

Dominique AdkinsEdD – Therapist for The Wise Family:  Depression comes in many forms. A teen may act out, cry, get angry, or take risks. The variety of manifestions of depression can lead to the emotional needs being overlooked. Teens’ busy schedules, the need to strive for perfection, constant connection with electronics often prevents them from being fully aware of their emotions. Additionally, there is often a tendency to avoid difficult moments and feelings which only prolongs the suffering. Each moment in life is temporary. Mindful awareness of each emotion not only reduces the suffering but increases awareness of the positive. I encourage teens to designate time to spend quietly and alone with their thoughts and feelings so they can mindfully and non-judgmentally notice what they are experiencing each day. This mindful moment helps teens to slow down, recognize, communicate their needs, and proceed in a way that supports them in the moment. Let’s partner with teens to increase communication about feelings and help create these daily mindful moments!

Amanda Beyland, LCSW – Therapist for The Wise Family:  Talking about how we feel is usually a difficult task for all of us but kids especially can have a difficult time communicating how they are feeling. We’ve had years of practice when it comes to our emotions which helps us pinpoint how we’re feeling and why that may be. Sometimes, with kids, these big emotions come with big reactions that cannot always be connected back to how they are feeling. While the kids are unsure about exactly how they are feeling, we as adults are trying to figure it out too! Sometimes people jump to assumptions about how someone may be feeling based on how they are expressing themselves but that isn’t always the case. Yelling doesn’t always mean we’re angry just like crying is not always due to sadness. In order to understand how we’re feeling we have to talk about it and embrace all of our feelings; not just the easy ones!
Sadness can be especially hard to talk about because it isn’t always something that is understood. Someone may be sad for a reason that someone else wouldn’t be able to relate to but that doesn’t make the sadness any less real. Acknowledge your child’s sadness for whatever it is! They may be sad about forgetting their favorite stuffed animal at home which may sound silly to us but is sincere for them. Reassure your child that sadness is an emotion that everyone experiences at some point in time, you can even share with them a time that you felt sad. This will help to normalize the feeling for the child and help them to become more comfortable with feeling sad. Don’t rush them out of their feelings but talk to them about what might help them feel better.

Kasey CainResident in Counseling – Therapist for The Wise Family: Depression is one of those terms that is used regularly. It is not uncommon during an average day in a school or office for me to hear someone say “I am so depressed!” As an adult, when we hear a child say this, it is difficult to know if the child is expressing a feeling of sadness in the moment, or a more recurring feeling that may be getting in the way of his or her life. Even as adults we often have difficulty understanding, expressing, and managing our feelings.

One of the first steps towards helping your child manage depression or other uncomfortable feelings is to be open with your feelings. Children watch all that we say and do. If we can learn to express our feelings in a healthy way or at least note when we realize we perhaps acted out, then children will model our behavior. It is important to remember that there is no such thing as a “bad feeling.” There are pleasant feelings that we like to have and others’ that are more uncomfortable. All feelings are natural and worth exploring and understanding.

Another step towards talking about sadness is to begin early and in “low threat” ways. The optimal time to talk to your child about being super sad is not when he or she is already sobbing. These conversation can happen any time. When reading a book, watching a movie – heck, even commercials can bring out strong emotions. Take any moment as an opportunity to learn about the complexity of feelings with your child. Expand their feelings vocabulary so your child understands that sad, lonely, gloomy, disappointed, and depressed are variances of similar feelings. And, remember, none of them are bad, because they can use these feelings to learn new, healthy coping mechanisms and increase their resilience. You will be surprised at how much you learn too!

Lynlee Tanner Stapleton, PhD – Evaluator for The Wise Family:  One of the first steps to effectively managing depression in children and teens is better understanding how it is likely to present itself. Many adults assume that depression looks like the stereotypical episodes of obvious sadness, crying, not wanting to leave bed, etc. But in young people, depression is just as likely to appear as heightened irritability and “testiness”, a loss of interest or pleasure in things they used to enjoy, more negative ways of thinking and seeing the world, and/or physical symptoms like persistent changes in appetite, weight, or activity level.

These are often dismissed as your child being “difficult” or “just being a teen” but may mask deeper concerns. If you notice these signs, begin to gently ask more questions, making sure to avoid a judgmental or dismissive tone, and expect that your efforts may be rebuffed at first (or second or third…). A child dealing with depression is likely to think you will never understand or she is unworthy or unable to be helped. Gentle, supportive listening and persistence are key. While mild symptoms may improve with time, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help, as depression is often chronic and recurrent. And indications that your child is having thoughts of death or self-harm should always be taken seriously, with a focus on ensuring safety.

Depression can seem scary and strange, but with some preparation and support from others, you and your child can weather the storm with effective help.

Be Wise!

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

 

We wrote last week about teens (and pre-teens) expressing curiosity about gender differences, and non-traditional approaches to sexual orientation. We got such an overwhelming response from families asking questions, that we thought we would share a bit more with you, as well as some (of the many) excellent resources. 

Teens often ask us, teary eyed and anxious, how they should share with their parents that they are considering adopting a non-traditional lifestyle. We like to use that term, rather than ‘alternative’ because it feels more accepting of the decisions being considered.

As an early career clinician, I would sometimes be skeptical when teens asked these questions and struggled to identify what – if anything – might have “caused” this to happen. I WONDERED how you could “know” that you were bi-sexual or gay if you had never had a sexual experience. And I also wondered if the teen would “grow out of it”.

Families would also WONDER about things like, “Did I do something wrong?” or “What will people think of my child? Of me?” or “How will my child manage a potential future full of bullies and shaming?” Sometimes families would experience a sense of relief knowing that something had been bothering their child for some time, and that this was it.

Most often, however, we would all have some combination of all of these feelings. My job was to support the child in sharing a very scary personal truth, AND to support the family in being open to really HEARING their child (which is different from listening, FYI).

Author and therapist, Dr. Michael LaSala, of Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child, offers these 6 suggestions that we use with families at The Wise Family –  

  • Take a deep breath – Generally good advice whenever first confronting a challenging situation, right? And be grateful that your child is talking with you, and sharing this intimate part of themselves.
  •  Find someone to talk to – but not just anyone – Find someone that is open-minded, and accepting of LGBTQ+ people. A trustworthy confidant will allow you to vent, but also can help correct some of the misperceptions absorbed from society, such as gay people are lonely, unhappy, promiscuous, unable to have children, and doomed to an unhappy life.
  • Then find someone else – a professional – Professionals like social workers, psychologists, or psychiatrists have an ethical code requiring them to be knowledgeable, respectful, and supportive of all people (although, just to be sure, you might ask the therapist about his/her options of LGBTQ+ people and lifestyles.)
  • Contact Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) (www.pflag.org) – This national support and advocacy group is primarily for parents of LGBTQ+ people and has hundreds of local chapters throughout the US. Having a group of people that have been in your shoes, and managed to get through the tough times can really help.
  • Get educated – Check out the resources below, and ask questions wherever and whenever you have the opportunity. Then help your child’s school, teachers, and the community get educated too!
  • Let your child teach you – Know that your son or daughter came out to you, most probably because they love you, and want a more open, honest relationship. Respect that, and allow them to teach you about LGBTQ+ people, and also about acceptance and love.

If you’ve read this far that means you are willing to take the initial step and get yourself information. Check out the resources below and reach out to us at The Wise Family fore more! Parenting is a journey with a lot of potholes and detours – and there are also some gorgeous scenic overlooks along the way.

Don’t miss them, and Be Wise.

Resources to check out –

http://belongto.org/

https://www.advocate.com/parenting/2014/09/09/10-tips-parents-gay-kids

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/06/24/coming-out-what-parents-lgbtq-kids-can-do/417155001/

Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child. (LaSala, M. C., 2010) New York: Columbia University Press.

Love Ellen, A Mother Daughter Journey (DeGeneres, B., 1999), New York: Ross Weisbach Books.

Mom, Dad, I’m Gay: How Families Negotiate Coming Out. (Savin-Williams, R. C., 2001.) Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

We have the opportunity, more and more, in our counseling practice, of supporting young people that are curious about nontraditional gender identification – and nontraditional approaches to sexual orientation. It is a confusing topic for even the most in-the-know parent (or therapist) so we thought we would share this article from PoshSEVEN with you to give you some orientation to the language and resources available around this topic.

Article: Navigating The New Frontier: Gender Identity

Contact us if you’d like to discuss this topic with us, or if you have anything additional to add – this is new territory for many so we all have something to learn! You may also schedule a time to chat HERE.

Be Wise!