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

New Insight on Tantrums Should Soothe Parents (Maybe)

Recent research conducted at the University of Minnesota provides deeper understanding into the childhood rite  of passage known as the temper tantrum. These noisy episodes of defiant toddler behavior can include a child kicking, screaming, crying, or throwing himself or herself in the floor in utter desperation. For some children, these type of displays seem inevitable. The essential questions for parents: what can we do about it? How do we make it stop?

The answer, according to research, is to soothe your child through the peaks in anger as they are experienced. A tantrum is not a time to help a child connect their behavior to consequences. In fact, the parts of the child’s brain responsible for reasoning are extremely limited during a tantrum.

The trick in getting a tantrum to end as soon as possible, researcher Michael Potegal said, was to get the child past the peaks of anger. Once the child was past being angry, what was left was sadness, and sad children reach out for comfort. The quickest way past the anger, the scientists said, was to do nothing. Of course, that isn’t easy for parents or caregivers to do.

More Reading: What’s Behind Temper Tantrums

Internet Gaming Addiction: Warning Signs

The following signs are indicators that a child may be addicted to video games. Behavioral addictions begin with enjoyable activities. Games are fun. They offer entertainment and escape, often meaningful social interactions. But when behaviors become compulsions, when games become something a child must do  rather than something that they simply enjoy doing, parents need to take action. Here are signs to look for:

PREOCCUPATION WITH GAMING

Young gamers invest a significant amount of attention on gaming, even when they are not playing. They think about playing when they are not. Feel intense anticipation for their next opportunity to play. Gamers miss school assignments or social engagements due to time spent gaming.

 

LYING OR HIDING GAMING USE

Gaming addicts can spend as much as ten to fifteen hours a day immersed in the gaming world. Most parents would rightly forbid this type of time investment. Addicted gamers may lie to parents or friends about what they are doing online. They may say they are working on assignments for school, for example, when they are actually playing World of Warcraft or Guildwars.

 

SOCIAL WITHDRAWAL

Personality changes due to game play. Outgoing, sports-oriented types may become reclusive, introverted. Gamers may become withdrawn, have feelings of alienation in “normal” social environments: school, family, church.

 

DEFENSIVENESS & ANGER

Gamers may become defensive about their need to play the game. They may react to game-play limits and rules as if they were threats to their very lives. May become angry, irrational, even violent.

 

PSYCHOLOGICAL WITHDRAWAL

Gamers experience a very real sense of loss when they are unable to play their games. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, for them to shake this sense of loss. Gamers may become anxious, irritable, or depressed if they lose access to a game.

 

CONTINUED GAMING DESPITE NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES

This is a classic symptom of both behavioral and substance addictions. Gamers who experience negative consequences directly related to their gaming, for example, missing an important test because they were playing video games all night, but are unable to change their behaviors to avoid these negative consequences may be addicted to gaming.

Parents who are concerned that their children may be addicted to video games may want to consult with an addiction expert.

 

Kid-centered Parenting

Being a parent has been described as the toughest job you’ll ever love. This is certainly true. Additionally, parenting is the most frustrating, rewarding, infuriating, confusing, illuminating, challenging, inspiring, exhausting, invigorating, blessed job you’ll ever love.

All that is fine and good. But parenting isn’t really about parents, or the experience of the parents. It’s about the children.

Give your child your most precious gift. Your time.

Children don’t really care what you do with them. What matters most is that you are doing something with them. Enter their world. Try to see the your family and the world from their perspective. Play tag. Make a lemonade stand or a zoo for stuffed animals. It doesn’t matter what you are doing as long as you are doing it together and you’re not trying to do something else at the same time. Try something different. Do something you’ve never done before.

Give your child a jet pack. Don’t buy it, make it. Make it together.

Here’s how to do it: Super Sci-Fi Rocket Fueled Jet Pack

Dealing with Change

Changes occur all day long.  An appointment gets cancelled, you encounter a detour on the way home, you were anticipating roast beef for dinner and you got chicken.  It’s what life is and while you might get a bit frustrated, you learn to roll with it.  But what about the big changes?  Job transfers, marriage, divorce, children, medical changes and the death of someone you love.  How do you learn to adapt with the changes that will affect the rest of your life?

Whether you’re leaving the community that you’ve built strong relations with or having to bury a loved one, you will feel anger because it wasn’t your choice for this to happen to you.  Healthy coping skills result in better emotional stability.  Poor coping skills result in anger and resentment.

First, it is helpful to recognize that you are in the midst of change and that change is part of you.  Instead of thinking about all the negative issues, try making a list of all the positive benefits of this change.  Visualize all the possibilities and write them down.  Make up a “to do” list if there are things you need to accomplish before the change happens.  Call a friend and discuss your fears and ask for their advice.  If you feel that you can’t get past your fear, anger and resentment you may need to talk to a professional.  In talking with a therapist you will get an unbiased opinion and they will be able to give you some insight and the coping tools so that you can move on and embrace your changes.

“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” ~ Jim Rohn

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

The Impact of Bullying

Bullying is not only in the school system. It lives on long past the days of homeroom classes and lunch with friends. It lives on in the memory and creates an impact on your self-esteem, self-worth, and how you interact with those around you. Undoubtedly, bullying in some shape or form affects everyone on a variety of levels, whether the victim, perpetrator, or bystander. Employees at Disneyland, known as ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’, shared a video titled “It Gets Better”, about personal stories of bullying and feelings of being alone that were caused by bullying. The video is a tribute to the Trevor project (http://www.thetrevorproject.org/), a national anti-bullying campaign for LGBTQ youth, going strong since its founding in 1998. The strong message of hope after there seemed to be nothing but darkness and depression shines through in the people who bring joy on the job every single day. Each and every person carries their story and truth and no matter the struggle…

 

“No life is a one person show. You need to surround yourself with the people who love you for who you are and encourage you to share with the world the unique gifts that you have to offer.”

 

Next time you are feeling alone, reach out and always remember that it gets better.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCSUfFStTQE

 

Erika McCaghren