Archive for November, 2009

PostHeaderIcon Problem-Solving a Family Crisis

All families have their share of problems and unfortunately during a crisis, family members panic. There can be any number of things that constitute a crisis for a family and some of the biggies are: using drugs, depression, self-mutilation, your child has thoughts of hurting themselves, staying out all night, sexting, death of a family member or loved one, having committed a crime, gang activity, or having underage sex. What constitutes a crisis for one family might not necessarily be a crisis for another family. So what do we do as a family to work through a crisis situation without completely having the family unit fall apart.

First of all, we should be prepared as a family before a crisis strikes. Parents should be alert to the early warning signs of the crisis. Watch for odd or unusual behaviors, lying, or in other words if your child/teen begins to act differently.
Stay calm. Losing your cool will not reassure or instill confidence in the rest of the members of the family. Yelling and screaming has never solved a single, solitary problem.
If your child or another family member is in danger then the danger must be removed immediately. This often means that the police have to be called if the situation has escalated to this point.
Work through a particular problem and do not focus on the person. Attacking or pointing the finger at a person during a family crisis is also not helpful. This just puts the person on the defensive and will most likely escalate the problem. Put your energy into solving the problem and not blaming and criticizine a person.
During a crisis, try to keep a normal routine. This is hard to do but this has a stabilizing and calming effect on all of the members of the family.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. This is a key to working through any type of family crisis. If family members shut down and don’t talk to each other than nothing ever gets solved. Give each other your undivided attention. If your child/teen needs to talk about something, then let them talk. Convey to them that you are their for him/her no matter what.
Utilize any and all resources at your disposal to work through the crisis. This could be a pastor, a therapist, other family members, support groups, friends, or your community mental health center. Work through the problem, no matter what it is with your child. Children/teens need reassurance that they are safe and loved, no matter what has happened or what they did.

PostHeaderIcon Witnessing Child Abuse

How do we as Americans respond to child abuse? A new study by Prevent Child Abuse America reveals a very alarming trend of how Americans respond to child abuse.

As surprising as this is, three out of ten Americans have witnessed a child being physically abused and two out of three have witnessed a child being emotionally abused. Yet nearly half of these individuals failed to respond in any way to the incident that occurred. This is according to a study that was released to Child Abuse America. What research is showing us is that most Americans fail to respond when they witness abuse in a public place because they do not know what to do.

So how can we respond to child abuse or neglect in a public place.

1.) We can start a conversation with the adult in order to direct attention away from the child. A good suggestion could be, “My child sometimes acts just like that when we go somewhere.”
2.) Look for an opportunity to praise the child or parent. This diffuses the situation and provides something positive into the situation.
3.) Avoid making a negative remark or look, this only adds fuel to an already bad situation.
4.) If the child is in imminent danger, then by all means find someone to help you. Do not try to diffuse a situation by yourself. That could be dangerous for you.
5.) Talk to the child and take an interest in something about them. For example, remark on how pretty or handsome they look or remark about something about their appearance. Most kids respond to praise in this manner.

The worst thing that a person can do when they witness abuse or neglect is to do nothing and just walk away. Even if you don’t want to “get involved”, the very least that should be done is to notify someone in a store where you observed the incident. In order for abuse to stop, everyone must get involved even if it makes them uncomfortable. Don’t turn a “blind eye” to abuse, this only exacerbates an already prevalent problem in the United States.

PostHeaderIcon Why Kids say “I Don’t Know”

As parents, we have heard this as an answer from our children so many times that we have lost count. Why exactly do children give this noncomital answer when parents or adults ask them a question. The reason of course is that kids learn at a very early age that if they say, “I don’t know” or “I am not sure” that they are less likely to get into trouble. When parents are asking questions of their children, they are usually doing so in an attempt to catch them in a lie or are in “attack mode” and kids are aware of this and will give them the safest response that they can give, “I don’t know.” Children constantly have to engage in conversations with adults that are more mature and have a deeper level of thought and children are often scared that they will be penalized if they offer up the wrong or incorrect response.

How do we as parents and as teachers correct this punitive system of correcting our children and ask questions and have a dialogue with our children that is more positive than negative.

The steps to correct this problem are as follows:
1.) Talk to your children with love and respect, even if you are really angry at them
2.) Ask them questions such as What? Where? Why?, these questions do not interrogate them, rather they invite them to have a discussion and it shows them you are really interested in what they have to say and their opinions.
3.) Avoid asking questions such as, “when are you going to?” How come you can’t?, Are you? Why not? Did you? These questions sound like the Spanish Inquisition! When you ask questions in this frame of mind you are automatically putting your child on the defensive and you are going to get a defensive or oppositional answer or not an answer at all.
4.) The key is ATTITUDE! Convey to your child/teenager in your communications that you are truly interested. This is to not to say that you are going to agree with each other or that your teen is going to get their way. You are still the parent after all and you are in charge of things.

Have a dialogue with your kids that is open; honest that conveys that you are open to their view point and are interested in what they have to say. We want to affirm their importance as individuals and offer up acceptance of them as people. Once we are able to achieve this, we will be able to get a definitive answer when we ask a question.

PostHeaderIcon How do we recognize a Panic Attack?

Anxiety is really on a continuum if you think about.  All of us, kids, adolescents and adults have some level of anxiety on any given day.  We move from relatively little anxiety to moderate to severe anxiety and we move up and down on this continuum.  NOBODY has no anxiety every day, everyone experience some degree of anxiety on any given day.  Anxiety is really a good and a bad thing, however high levels of anxiety on a continuing basis interfere with our ability to function in our daily lives.  We never are truly able to eliminate anxiety completely, however the goal of psychological treatment is to reduce or manage the anxiety that we have.  With that said, how do we know that we are having a panic attack or in other words a sudden and intense fear or anxiety that is absolutely overwhelming to us.  Panic attacks happen to children and adults alike and panic attacks do not discriminate based on a person’s age. 

In order to recognize whether you are experiencing a panic attack, you must first know the symptoms of a panic attack:

1.) you feel like your heart is racing and you have heart palpitations

2.) sweating

3.) trembling or shaking all over your body

4.) Shortness of breath

5.) fear of dying

6.) fear of losing control

7.) nausea or abdominal pain or distress

8.) chills or hot flushes

9.) chest pain or discomfort

10.) feeling of choking

11.) feeling dizzy, unsteady, faint, or lightheaded

12.) derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached or not part of oneself)

13.) paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations)

To qualify for a diagnosis of Panic Disorder, at least four of the preceding 13 symptoms are needed.  Experiencing these symptoms does not always mean that you are having a panic attack, they may signal a physical problem.  Many symptoms of a physical ailment mimic those identified for a panic attack and a physical basis for the symptoms needs to first be ruled out.  Individuals should first receive a physical examination to rule out that their is no physical basis for these symptoms.  If there is not a physical reason for the preceding symptoms than panic disorder is likely the culprit and psychological intervention is needed.  Most individuals that experience panic attacks are treated with Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and psychological intervention is usually needed in order to treat panic attacks.  Medications are also often needed in order to treat panic attacks.