Let’s Talk About “Kangaroo”

Today, I had the pleasure of meeting with authors, Susie Himes & Erin Hinshaw.  This mother/daughter team recently released their amazing book called, “Kangaroo Had The Flu & Her Friends Have Problems Too!” The book not only inspired this blog post, but will also help open the door for discussing some difficult health-related topics.  In the book, “Kangaroo” and her friends have many common medical problems, some as simple as a scrap or a burn, and others’ more serious conditions like Diabetes, Crohn’s Disease, and Depression.  The beautiful illustrations (by Paula Sadler) make this an interesting-read for children and the fun rhymes will inspire necessary parent/child or teacher/child discussions: 1. To help children with related symptoms see that they’re not alone in their suffering.  2. To help others become more aware and sensitive to those with medical illnesses.

In my profession, I see parallel problems; though mental illness oftentimes comes with more of a stigma.  Many parents and other adults may have a hard time accepting certain conditions.  Plus, children with learning, social, or behavioral deficits are often outcasts.  Because our society has “labeled the labels” in my opinion, some kids who truly have ADHD, Autism-spectrum, or Bipolar conditions are incorrectly being defined as “just a boy,” “weird,” “hormonal,” “angry like her mother/father,” or “unmotivated and lazy.”

Let me say, I view mental health diagnoses as a necessity when it comes to getting certain services, specific treatment plans, and academic modifications.  They merely help with considering the next-step and no, medication is not always the answer!  When we simply talk (and keep talking) about the struggles that individuals have, whether in children or adults or with physical or mental health, we open the door for understanding, acceptance, treatment, and relief.

We not only need to talk more, but love more, accept more, and give more.  For many, it begins with understanding that we are all different, we all have struggles, and we all should know we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14), despite the “label.”

At the end of our meeting, Susie left me with a quote by C.S. Lewis, “We read to know we are not alone.”  I so appreciate this truth!  In a world where many kids, adolescents, and adults feel alone, and where so many have resorted to taking their life or others’ life rather than dealing with hurt, pain, confusion, and anger; this is the time to come together and understand the beautiful blend of our physical and mental health.

—- To Susie & Erin: Thanks ladies for opening the door and making so many precious “friends” find comfort in knowing that others face similar challenges.  I look forward to the next one, and the next one, and the next one 😉

To order this book or request a signed copy, visit Susie & Erin’s website @ www.fourdoorsaway.com


Parents: Avoid the Talk-Persuade-Argue-Yell-Hit Syndrome

Many adults enter parenthood with visions of “picture perfect” children. They imagine a warm and loving home, as well as respectful and polite kids, all eagerly doing whatever is asked with only an occasional explanation from Mom or Dad.  As a veteran parent, you know this is not reality. But many parents have the idea that kids are just smaller versions of adults: reasonable and unselfish. This is the “Little Adult Assumption.” Moms and Dads who embrace this myth often prefer the “modern method” of discipline—talking and reasoning. Unfortunately, many times words and reasons alone prove unsuccessful. Sometimes they have no impact at all, and then parent and child fall into the trap known as the Talk-Persuade-Argue-Yell-Hit Syndrome.

This tragic sequence results from the very best of parental intentions. Your child is doing something you don’t like. You tell her to stop. She continues her misbehavior, so you try persuading her to see things your way. When persuasion fails, you start arguing. When arguing is not successful, you yell. Yelling fails, so—feeling there is nothing left to do—some parents turn to hitting. The two biggest parenting mistakes—too much talking and too much emotion—trigger the Talk-Persuade-Argue-Yell-Hit Syndrome.

Changing Kids’ Behavior Begins By Changing Your Expectations

If you have a child who is doing something you don’t like, get real upset about it on a regular basis and sure enough he’ll repeat it for you. Too much yelling and too much anger on the part of a parent are destructive for several reasons. First, they move the focus off of the child’s misbehavior and on to the parent’s own outburst. Second, many children take the emotional eruption of a parent as a challenge to a fight, and there are plenty of kids who love a good fight. Third, parents who over explain and give three, four or five reasons to a child to encourage right behavior are almost saying “You really don’t have to behave unless I can give a number of good arguments as to why you should.” This is not discipline, it is begging, and the shrewd enough child will simply take issue with the parent’s reasons.  Changing children’s behavior often begins by changing parents’ expectations of their children. Trying to teach young children appropriate behavior is actually closer to training than it is to teaching “little adults.” This means choosing a method and repeating it consistently until the “trainee” does what the trainer wants. Very little of the training involves extensive verbal explanations. Most important, the trainer remains calm, patient and gentle, but also persistent and firm. Keep in mind, children need consistency and repetition in a warm and loving environment.

Another Quick Tip: Take Care of Yourself First!!  If remaining calm, patient and gentle is most often a struggle for you, perhaps your life needs a little work. It’s very hard to be a good parent if you don’t take good care of yourself first! [This may mean improving your physical, mental, and/or spiritual health…..contact Dr. Jones today for consultation or specific referrals!]


Quick Tip: Take Care of Yourself First!

If remaining calm, patient and gentle is most often a struggle for you, perhaps your life needs a little work. It’s very hard to be a good parent if you don’t take good care of yourself first!

– See more at: http://www.123magic.com/Newsletter-May-2013#sthash.jLNwQGSr.dpuf

uick Tip: Take Care of Yourself First!

If remaining calm, patient and gentle is most often a struggle for you, perhaps your life needs a little work. It’s very hard to be a good parent if you don’t take good care of yourself first

– See more at: http://www.123magic.com/Newsletter-May-2013#sthash.jLNwQGSr.dpuf

Quick Tip: Take Care of Yourself First!

If remaining calm, patient and gentle is most often a struggle for you, perhaps your life needs a little work. It’s very hard to be a good parent if you don’t take good care of yourself first!

– See more at: http://www.123magic.com/Newsletter-May-2013#sthash.jLNwQGSr.dpuf

Quick Tip: Take Care of Yourself First!

If remaining calm, patient and gentle is most often a struggle for you, perhaps your life needs a little work. It’s very hard to be a good parent if you don’t take good care of yourself first!

– See more at: http://www.123magic.com/Newsletter-May-2013#sthash.jLNwQGSr.dpuf



1-2-3 Magic Parenting Newsletter © 2013

Simple, straightforward parenting advice and helpful tips from Dr. Phelan’s award-winning parenting resources. To learn more or to subscribe visit www.123magic.com/Newsletter.



Attachment & Relationships

Trust issues…where do they come from?  Yes, it’s certainly possible that family and intimate relationship experiences can cause heart-break and mistrust.  For instance, enduring your parents’ divorce, seeing your mother as unfaithful or your father as a “rolling stone,” and you yourself, being cheated on by a long-time spouse or partner – all of these experiences can cause us to keep up an emotional guard in relationships, doubt the fidelity and genuineness of others, or avoid intimacy altogether.  But what about those of us who do not have such profound and obvious experiences?  Where does the inability to trust come from if we’re never modeled or ‘taught’ to be weary of others?

Attachment Theory provides a possible explanation to these queries.  This theory describes the dynamics of long-term relationships between humans, which is determined as early as infancy.  The most important principle of Attachment Theory is that an infant needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for social and emotional development.  Attachment is the affectionate tie between two people and this bond becomes internally representative of how young children will form relationships in adulthood.  In other words, this initial relationship between self and others serves as a “blueprint” for all future relationships.

The attachment bond can be broken in many ways, with the most obvious being physical and sexual abuse; however, physical and emotional neglect can also be detrimental to future relationships.  For instance, a child frequently left crying, wet, or hungry, or who is not comforted when in physical pain, must learn to comfort or sooth himself, and possibly, develop an inability to trust those whom they love the most.  Another example is an infant child who smiles at his or her mother, or reaches for a hug, but does not receive reciprocation may develop a lack of empathy for others and have difficulty forming lasting relationships in their later life.  They may lack genuine affection with others, be inconsiderate or conscious of others’ needs, or be suspicious of a partners’ affection. 

The core of one’s relational problems may be his or her attachment style and history.  Therefore, in some cases, what may seem like a need for couple’s counseling may actually be more of an issue for individual counseling.  The deeply-seated and suppressed needs can be met, emotional damage can be healed, and relationships can become lasting. 


Childhood Stress. Really? Really.

As adults, we have hundreds of sources for stress: in our homes, in our jobs, in society, financially, relationally, physically, mentally, and the list goes on and on.  It’s easy to discuss with friends the “problem of the week” or with colleagues “what’s wrong with the world today.”  Oftentimes, we don’t consider that children have these same sources for stress.  In fact, many of us reminisce about childhood being “easy” and free of responsibilities.  In my clinical experience, however, that has not been the case for many children and adolescents.  Due to disregarded stressors (external and internal), many youth present with psychological issues or conditions, including disruptive and defiant behaviors, ADHD, depression, anxiety, social problems, low self-esteem, substance abuse, learning or academic difficulties, and sexual behavior problems.  External stressors can occur within the family (i.e., separation, changes and/or disorganization, loss, finances), peers (i.e., bullying, loss, assimilation), school (i.e., success and expectations, child/teacher relationship, learning limitations), and community (i.e., social pressures, violence, media).  Internal sources for stress might include hunger, pain, physical sensitivities (to noise, temperature change, crowding, etc.), fatigue, over- and under-stimulation, psychological conditions, and physical disabilities. 

A main difference with adult verses child stress, is that adults have had years of learning coping mechanisms to manage their stress (some positive, some not-so-positive), whereas children are not so fortunate.  Due to cognitive limitations, children generally rely on previously learned behaviors to diminish the stress (i.e., crying, temper tantrums, asking questions, being withdrawn, thumb sucking).  However, this may lead to a negative cycle whereas symptoms remain, become enhanced, and/or transfer to other problems – especially if the child is disciplined for the “inappropriate” behavior.   Here are some signs to look for if your child or adolescent may be experiencing external or internal stressors: crying, sweating palms, tantrums or aggressive outbursts, headaches and stomachaches, toileting accidents, sleep disturbances, sadness, avoidance, excessive shyness, hypervigilance, excessive worry, “freezing up” in social situations, seemingly obsessive interests in objects or routines, excessive clinging, inattentiveness, or hyperactivity. 

So, as a parent, what do you do?  First, it’s important to know what NOT to do…Do not assume that your child can or will cope in the same manner you do.  Then what?  1. Appropriately prepare the child and help them anticipate the stressor (if and when possible).  2. Provide the child with an age-appropriate and friendly environment where they feel supported to play out or express their concerns.  3. Help the child identify various coping strategies, including relaxation techniques, artistic expression, and positive self-talk skills (i.e., “I can do this”).  4.  Help the child recognize, name, accept, and express their feelings appropriately.  Many child and adolescent therapists can offer these tools, this special type of environment, and provide other recommendations for helping children cope with stress.  Also, in some cases, psychological testing may be necessary to fully understand the nature and impact of external and internal stressors. 


The Many Faces of ADHD

Simply understanding Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as a disorder of inattention and/or hyperactivity is not enough.  While on internship in Chicago (2009), my very-insightful supervisor, Dr. Gene Carroccia, helped me to better understand this complex disorder.  The following are just a few important aspects of the brain-functioning condition called ADHD:

ADHD is a motivation or boredom disorder.  People with ADHD are usually not motivated to do things except what they are interested in at the moment.  If they are interested in something then they can do it for long periods.  This is confusing for parents and teachers because they will see the ADHD person persisting with things they like, but then struggling with chores, following rules, and homework.  Dr. Carroccia explains that ADHD people often appear as lazy, selfish, insensitive, and self-centered because they pay more attention to things that are new, highly stimulating, or interesting, and struggle with things that are routine, ordinary, boring, or tedious (such as schoolwork, chores, lectures).

ADHD is an organization disorder.  ADHD people often are quite messy and disorganized.  Dr. Carroccia posits that, most people with normal brains take for granted their ability to be organized and follow steps to complete everyday tasks, like cleaning a room, doing homework, or doing a project.  They have trouble starting a project or activity, remaining focused, and persisting in the small tasks in order to complete the entire task.  Because of this problem, ADHD people are notorious procrastinators and will also struggle to maintain things in neat or orderly ways.

ADHD is a frustration disorder.  People with ADHD can appear angry, but it is often really frustration.  ADHD people often have frustration tolerance problems, meaning they do not tolerate frustration as well as others their age.  When things don’t go their way or when they are told to do things they do not want to do, they can become frustrated.  When frustrated they can have temper tantrums or outbursts where they yell, cry, scream, or say mean things.

ADHD is a self-control disorder.  Because some ADHD people have impulsivity, they have a harder time controlling their actions.  They do and say things without thinking about the consequences of their behaviors, and this can cause them to be rude and get into trouble.  They have serious self-control problems, and struggle with the ability to stop, think, inhibit, plan, and then act, as well as to continue doing things while other distracting things are occurring.

ADHD is a time-disorder.  They often have time management problems due to having difficulties with planning ahead and anticipating negative outcomes from their behavior.  They lose track of time more easily and are often late for things.

ADHD is not a common sense condition and may appear strange to parents, teachers, spouses, and co-workers who have not been educated about ADHD.  For more information on this disorder or to schedule a psychological evaluation to help identify if ADHD is present in your child, spouse, or you, contact Fresh Start today!