Talking to Your Children About Violence

Violence – our children are bombarded with it every day, both real and fictional media violence. A mass shooting in a school or local shopping area, a police shooting, bullying, tv, movies and video games – violence surrounds them. It is important to address the issue of violence in our
society with our children.

For parents of children in school, there is no way to prevent them from hearing about the violence that is happening in our country and world. It is important to take the initiative in talking to your children about violence. When preparing for this conversation, learn as much as possible about the impact of violence in our society. You will want to tailor your conversation to the age of your children and to what they already know is happening. Teachers may be discussing current events in school. Your teenagers may be hearing about violent incidents on social media. They may be listening while you listen to the news. As a parent, you need to be asking your children about what they have been hearing in the news, in the classroom or from their friends. Then you may direct the conversation to what concerns or fears your children may be experiencing.

We want our children to feel their world is safe, but they know there is violence everywhere around them. Balance your discussion of the dangers in society with the ways in which they can reduce their chances of experiencing violence. Discuss actions you have taken to keep them safe in your home. What are steps their school has taken to ensure their safety? How can they protect themselves if something happens at home or school?

Media violence has become more graphic. You have several options for dealing with it. Consider limiting the amount of media exposure your children have. Perhaps you may want to
set limits on what and/or how much your children can watch on tv or the video games they can play. Make sure they are age appropriate. Take time to watch programs and movies with your children so you know what they are seeing and hearing. Discuss the subject matter with them. Young children especially have a hard time understanding the difference between reality and the fantasy they see on the screen. Help them understand the difference. Explain why there are things they see on tv, in movies, and in video games that wouldn’t or shouldn’t happen in real life.

These are tough subjects to discuss. It is easy to become overly emotional and angry about the violence that seems to be impacting so much of our lives. But your children need to see you being able to stay calm and in control. This will help your children feel more secure, less anxious, and learn how they too can keep control over their feelings when facing difficult situations.

If violence is affecting your child’s peace of mind despite your discussions, don’t be afraid to seek help for them. Are they showing signs of anxiety, grief, or fear about their safety that isn’t letting up? Perhaps they are experiencing physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches. Have they displayed a reluctance to go to school or take part in their usual activities? If so, don’t put off seeking professional help.

Choosing the Right Therapist

Counseling or psychotherapy for anxiety, depression, substance abuse, or relationships can be a very life changing, if not life saving, process. It is so important to find the best match for your needs. For many, this is a new experience or at least new in this current situation or location.

Making an inquiry for services and reaching out for help requires enormous trust. It involves uncertainty. Although finding a great match for your needs can be overwhelming, you can minimize the uncertainty. It is important to ask questions and express your hopes and expectations beginning with the first contact and throughout the process. Your questions may include queries about the counselor’s experience, specialties, flexibility, and availability of appointment times. We encourage you to ask how privacy and confidentiality are protected.

The following is a checklist of considerations that could help you determine whether a clinic and therapist/counselor is a right fit for you. An excellent clinic such as Pinnacle Counseling is able to have high ratings in most, if not all, categories.

Using the Scale 1-5  (with 1-Poor, 3-Average and  5-Excellent) rate the clinics and counselor/therapist you visit:

1. The convenience of the location of the office.

2. The availability of appointment times.

3. The comfort/atmosphere of the office or facility.

4. The competence and knowledge of the therapist.

5. The quality of care and services.

6. The thoroughness of the initial evaluation and treatment.

7. The amount of help you received.

8. Your degree of improvement from the time of the initial visit.

9. The degree to which you were helped to deal more effectively with you problems.

10. The improvement in how you feel compared to the initial visit.

11. Your overall satisfaction with the treatment.

12. The value of the treatment, considering the cost.

13 The response time from your first contact to the initial appointment.

14. The adequacy of explanation of procedures, fees, treatment, etc.

15. The friendliness/courtesy of your therapist.

16. The attention and respect to privacy you received.

17. The personal interest in you and your problems.

18. The attention given to what you had to say.

19. Your comfort in referring a friend or relative.

20. Your comfort in returning if you needed help again.

Sharon Nelson, LCSW

Mental Health and Relationship Counselor- Feel Better, Live Better

Feel Better, Live Better: Rules vs. Relationship

We all know parenting can be a challenge. Trying to figure out how to be there for your kids, while also maintaining structure can be tricky. Two important components to consider are rules and relationship; what are they and how do they interact?

In families, rules are the behavioral guidelines set by the parents. Having these guidelines enables children and teens to know exactly what is and is not acceptable, giving them the freedom to live without uncertainty of what is expected of them. In this way, rules serve as a sort of safety net. When children generally know what to expect, and can predict how the family will function from day to day, they feel safer and more confident. This also translates to how they interact with authority and with peers outside of the home. Appropriately utilizing rules in your home includes making sure that rules are enforceable, are clearly defined, and that consequences for breaking these rules are consistently followed through upon. Rules are not meant to micro-manage, but rather to create a safe set of guidelines for age-appropriate behavior that help your home to be a safe and happy place.

While rules are an important part of parenting, they are only part of the equation. As a well-known psychologist has stated, “rules without relationship leads to rebellion”. A healthy relationship with your children and teens is an imperative part of bringing up healthy children. This does not mean that there won’t be bad days, or attitudes, or door slamming. It does mean that no matter what happens, pursuing quality time with your children on a consistent basis is a priority. Quality time may look like going out for ice cream one on one, or simply taking a few minutes to play a game. No matter how you spend quality time with your kids, remember to listen without judgement, and to ask questions. This is their time to know that you’re there, and that you value them. While some parents struggle with quality time, other parents may place too much emphasis on the relationship aspect. This can look like trying to be your child’s best friend, allowing unacceptable behavior to avoid conflict, and not following through on limits to hopefully improve your child’s view of you, among other things. This type of parenting may ultimately do your child more harm than good. While they may interact well with you, they often struggle in other aspects of life such as school or work.

Both rules and relationship must be consistent. A child feeling loved one day and unloved the next can produce feelings of insecurity (and poor behavior) just like enforcing a rule one day and letting it slide the next. While rules and relationships are both important parts of parenting, one will rarely work without the other. They operate like a scale, and when you have too much of one or the other, things get off balance. A healthy relationship with your children is a foundation you can build on with the structure offered by appropriate and reasonable rules. You are more likely to get compliance from a child who respects and wants to please you than a child who is only trying to avoid a negative consequence. On the other hand, a child is more likely to respect a parent who consistently keeps their word by sticking with the defined rules and consequences. Life is far from predictable, and parenting is an extremely hard job. Always remember to listen to your kids, to create a consistent home environment, and to ask for help when you need it.

~ by Adam Martin, LPC

Mental Health and Relationship Counselor

FAMILIES, COMMUNICATION AND TECHNOLOGY: DANGERS AND CHALLENGES

Family communication has been forever changed with technology, in both positive and negative ways. Previously, I shared ideas on how to use the technology already in your daily lives to increase and improve communication in your family. This article focuses more on some danger zones and challenges parents are faced with through our children’s access to technology.

Readily available information 24/7 online: This can be a very positive thing if a school report is due tomorrow morning and it is 8:45 pm. However, it can also be dangerous at times. Kid have ready access to lots of information, such as depression symptoms, but when searching for depression symptoms or ways to decrease it they are also likely to come across sites discussing suicide and possibly even ways to commit suicide. Some of the teens I have worked with have regular conversations with other teens across the country who they have never met in person to discuss their depression. If one of the internet friends decides suicide is their best option this could negatively impact your child or lead them in that direction also. If you have no idea what sites your children or teens are accessing, this could be a discussion you want to have to avoid future problems or surprises. On a positive note, you will probably also learn of some interesting websites you might also enjoy on hobbies or interests your child is engaged in.

Increased intimacy of relationships: Teen romantic relationships are getting significantly more intense and intimate than in the past due to technology. If a teenage girl or boy is constantly in contact with their boyfriend/girlfriend all day and all night they feel they know that person well very quickly. Some teens actually use certain apps such as Skype or Facetime to “sleep together.” They fall asleep and wake up with each other and this can quickly lead to sexual intimacy which they wouldn’t jump into as quickly if they only talked to each other at school and after school events. Controlling behavior patterns emerge quickly as well since one partner in the relationship may demand instant response to texts or calls or use these to track where the other person is at all times.

Access to inappropriate material: Everyone is aware that pornography is readily available online. What you may not know is that even kids in elementary school are hearing about this and learn what words to google or what sites to go to through conversations at school or on the bus. I actually worked with a 5th grader who had been watching 5-6 porn videos a day in the afternoons before the parents got home from work. The parents learned of it about 4 months after it started. That is a scary amount of exposure to that type of material. Parents need to be ready to have conversations with your kids about sexual activity and porn earlier than in the past due to this open access to the information online. It is a good idea to randomly ask about conversations at school or on the bus that may have confused or embarrassed them. If you ask them, they will tell you, but be prepared to respond in a calm way with age appropriate answers instead of getting upset or agitated, which they will interpret as getting in trouble. Make sure you have parental controls set to block inappropriate content on any device your child has access to in order to minimize their exposure to these types of websites.

Camera access 24/7: Most parents believe that sexting and inappropriate pictures only happens when kids get to be teenagers. However, on school buses and playgrounds some kids have cell phones and will ask girls to take pictures of themselves in the bathroom or boys will be trying to get pictures under girls’ skirts or dresses with their device. Most of the young teens I have worked with who are coming in after parents learned they are sexting or sending inappropriate pictures have never had a conversation with an adult about that issue. In each situation the parent(s) said “Well, I didn’t think I had to tell her/him not to do that” or “they should have known better.” This leads to huge conflicts and hurt feelings on both sides. If we don’t tell them it is not appropriate and all of their friends seem to think it is normal, why do we think they will know it is wrong? I recommend that parents have discussions with any child who will be independently using a cell phone or device that connects to the internet about appropriate sites; regularly check their history online; and have a technology curfew. The curfew means no phones or devices in the bedrooms after a certain time, usually close to bedtime. For obvious reasons, this is the most common time these types of activities are occurring. (It might be a good idea to implement a technology curfew even in parents’ bedrooms. Think of the increase in communication with your spouse or partner if the phones and iPads were not in the bedroom. Just a thought.)

Perpetrators have ready access to our kids: My daughter is 10 years old and last year during a winter storm I took her to my office since school was closed for the day. She was playing Minecraft online with her cousin and suddenly gasped and said, “I can’t believe he said that to me.” Evidently, when you play Minecraft and have the chat feature turned on, other people online can chat with you. Someone had asked her, “Do you want to have sex?” She was literally 2 feet from me at the time! My niece was totally not surprised and her statement back to my daughter was, “Oh yeah, if you don’t turn off chat they do that all the time.” She was not at all shocked or surprised. I didn’t even know there was a chat feature in Minecraft! Other apps and video games have similar features, such as Xbox online games. Some kids I worked with in the past had gotten in trouble with their parents after gifts started arriving in the mail that were not appropriate and parents’ learned they had given out their address to people they were talking to while playing video games online. If your child is going to have access to these games and apps, you need to be prepared to have a discussion with them about safety, not sharing personal information, and when to seek you out if someone approaches them about inappropriate things such as sex or meeting in person somewhere. It would not be a bad idea to occasionally hang out in the room they are playing in and listen to some of the conversations they are having to make sure they are safe.

Dangerous websites: Some of the websites that teens locally find funny or interesting are treasure troves for sexual perpetrators. Kids go online to look at sexual pictures and content and a lot of them see it as funny or gross rather than inappropriate. I have worked with young teen girls who met people on these websites pretending to be teen boys and asking for inappropriate pictures. This escalates into threats against the girl’s family if they don’t continue the behaviors and follow the offenders directions, only to get into serious trouble with their parents when it is discovered. When the parents have gone to the police to try to press charges on the perpetrator in those instances, they have been told there is no guarantee the girl will not also be charged with distribution of porn so none of the families have moved forward with prosecution because of that. This is emboldening the offenders to reach out even more because there are rarely consequences for them.

In short, technology is advancing quickly and is very useful and make parts of our lives much easier. However, it can also be a dangerous tool in the hands of the wrong people. To protect your kids, you need to be aware of the dangers and prepared to have open conversations with your children about internet safety on a regular basis. There are some programs in the area that go to schools or churches to teach kids about internet safety, such as the Morgan Nick Foundation. Check with your school counselor or google internet safety for kids to find programs to use with your child or just so you can learn the information and then educate your children yourself.

I hope this information is helpful and starts some meaningful discussions in your family that will open communication and keep everyone safely connected to one another at home and online. Please feel free to contact us about an appointment if you learn your child has been involved in some of these activities or even if you just aren’t sure about how to approach the subject with your kids and need some pointers.

By Paula Coleman, LCSW – Pinnacle Counseling NWA
Mental Health and Relationship Counselor

Relationships are like a Garden (part 3)

Relationships are both complicated and simple at the same time. If you are struggling to stay “grounded”, seek professional advice. We, at Pinnacle Counseling are here to help.

Care about what the other needs;
Healthy relationships explore and support the needs of a partner while not ignoring their own needs. Individuals form “couples”, and they still have individual needs, wants, likes and dislikes. Honoring their special traits is key to remaining close. Good practice: Offer support of a need such as affection, attention, inclusion, time to be alone, or social groups even if it’s not a need of yours and is a little uncomfortable. Garden analogy: Some plants need more shade or grow better in sandy or cooler climate. They don’t grow if they don’t get what they need.

Feel relaxed;
In a world of pressure and anxiety, the couple who can be at ease with each other has shared a gift of why most couples form in the beginning. It takes intention and dedication to cultivate a feeling of relaxation in each other’s presence. Good practice: begin some kind of meditation, centering prayer, or down time that is about stillness rather than accomplishment. This is a time when less is more. Being relaxed during the day can add to a better night’s sleep which is also healthy for the mind, body, and spirit and relationships. Garden analogy: It doesn’t help to plant the seed and dig it up the next day to see why it’s stressed. Often we need to just let it be.

Sharon Nelson, LCSW

The Habit of People Pleasing

Are you in the habit of always thinking of everyone else first and putting your own needs dead last?  Well, you are not alone!  That issue comes up frequently when someone shares with me about their anxiety or depression.  There are likely several factors at play that cause you to sell yourself short.  But in the end, you are left feeling resentful and exhausted.  Who is there to meet your needs?

We have to start “showing up” and making our own needs and wants known.  A favorite saying of mine is, “You teach others how to treat you by what you allow”.  Powerful stuff! Think about your current relationships.  Do these relationships have a 50/50 balance, with you and the other person being equally important?  If not, why?  Chances are, you definitely deserve to own 50% of the input in the relationship.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can be a powerful tool for overcoming the habit of people pleasing.  We learn a life time of “messages” we receive from others which reinforce that our opinion doesn’t matter.  We learn that it’s not ok to make others upset or disappoint them. That belief may have served you once in your life, but with those kinds of thinking patterns our souls can really take a beating after a while.  CBT helps by uncovering the messages you hold to be true and teaches you to re-write the script.  The technique of assertive communication is important here, too.  The two extremes, passive and aggressive styles of communication, usually aren’t very helpful in the long run.  Assertive communication says “Your needs matter, and so do mine”.  Try to get in the habit of thinking and responding with that thought in mind.

To many, making themselves a priority has never crossed their mind.  How is there room for that when you are busy being supermom/wife/employee…?  You may find that by taking care of yourself first, or at least making your self-care an equal priority in the equation, you have more to give to others.  You may feel guilt about this, and frankly others may try to make you feel guilty about it, but self-care is vital to mental and physical health.  Self-care can be as simple as taking 15 minutes to enjoy coffee with a friend, getting to the gym for a work out, reading quietly- anything you want that is nurturing to your soul.  The only requirement is that it takes care of YOU.  It is ok to be nice to yourself!

Rachael Nachtigal, LPC

Did you know Pinnacle Counseling serves children and families?

Pinnacle Counseling offers counseling for children, ages 5-17, and their families.  A therapist with advanced training and experience in working with young people will meet with the child in our play room designed specifically to provide a safe environment for children to express themselves.  Play is believed to be the language of children, when they do not have the vocabulary, insight, or courage to process things verbally.  Through carefully selected toys, games, books, activities, art mediums, and purposeful play children can make sense of their lives, heal, and learn new skills.  Counseling for children can address different types of issues including reaction to stressors such as divorce or loss, traumas of all kinds, problems with family bonding and relationships, anxiety and depression, disruptive behavior, aggression, school problems, and ADHD.

How do you know if your child needs counseling?

Children often react physically and behaviorally to stressors rather than just putting their problems into words.  This could because they don’t have the words or don’t have the insight to understand what is happening inside themselves.  Looks for signs like changes in eating habits, changes in sleeping patterns including having nightmares, regression in behaviors (e.g, potty accidents, thumb sucking, baby talk), crying and tearful episodes, “touchy” and short fused moods, and withdrawing from people and activities they used to enjoy.

What is play therapy? How will it help my child?

Play therapy is a specific type of treatment, based on theory and principles.  It is more than just typical play time, although your child may not realize that.  The trained therapist uses different avenues in the session to help the child express themselves and learn new skills for coping.  The therapist can also discuss with parents themes that come up in the child’s play, indicating areas of concern.  As the child plays out things and engages in activities during session, he or she will get similar benefits to an adult spending an hour talking with a therapist.

If you have further questions or feel our services are needed for your child or family, please let us know! Visit our website at www.pinnaclecounselingNWA.com for contact information.

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Rachael Nachtigal, LPC

Psychotherapy

The first word of this compound word says it all “psycho”. No one wants to be associated with something that is strange, difficult to handle, and perhaps the worst of all: a scary, new experience. If you were to ask a friend or family member what psychotherapy is, they would most likely say something about paying a lot of money to talk about problems (and that’s putting it nicely). If you were to ask a counselor or therapist, we would describe it as a chance to be heard, without judgment through the ears and eyes of a professional, in the comfort and safety of a confidential session. The talking part might be easy…or hard depending on how you view your problems. If providing a safe place where clients can talk about whatever it is that is troubling them is the job of the counselor, what is your job as a client in psychotherapy? What do you have to know before you even walk through the door? Most first time clients wonder how we expect you to tell everything that you are thinking and feeling after just meeting.

These are common questions that can be answered. A client simply has to make the appointment with a counselor or therapist and come ready for the experience. Okay…that may seem a bit more intimidating than helpful, but it’s the truth. If you are open to the experience of psychotherapy as something completely different and refreshing you are on the road to understanding what it is and how it works. Before you walk through the door, you should know that you are not alone. Every single person you pass on the street has a past, a story, a journey. That road is paved with troubles, hardships, and bumps that throw off your sense of balance as you walk the road. This is where you have to believe that there are trained professionals ready to help and to listen to you. Why would a counselor want to listen to all of the “bumps” along the way in your life? Because we are trained to provide the safe haven for you to explore the inner workings of what is really going on in your life. There is no façade, just a real and honest experience with another person to ensure that you don’t trip on the bumps of life and walk, silent and hurting, through the rest of life.

If you are working through the bumps in your life and decide that the word psychotherapy is not as scary as facing it on your own…that is what we are here for.

 

Erika McCaghren

April is Counseling Awareness Month

April is Counseling Awareness Month! Although many people know generally what counselors do, this is a time for counselors everywhere to stand together to promote the use of counseling services. We do this by reaching out to clients, readers, social media outlets, and through simple word of mouth that “We are here”. Pinnacle Counseling stands in full support of Counseling Awareness Month by showing people that we care and are here to support you. Knowing that there is a group of professionals near you, ready and willing to listen and help you through a particularly hard time or everyday struggles of life is a valuable tool. In any given situation, no matter the cause, difficulty, or time you have been dealing with the issue—we are here. Simply remember…Keep Calm and Call a Counselor!

 

Erika McCaghren

 

Sources: American Counseling Association