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Dayspring Behavioral Health

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Parents of Teens with Executive Function Deficiencies: How to Find Balance

By Adolescents/Teens, Executive Functioning No Comments

Parenting is a roller coaster ride for anyone, but especially if you parent a child or teenager with executive function deficiencies. There are days with the thrill of victory and days with the agony of defeat, and many days with a bit of both. Every parent desperately wants to succeed, and to guide their children toward success too. Often, the result becomes trying too hard, which seems counter-intuitive.

In her work, The Disintegrating Student: Super Smart and Falling Apart, psychologist Jeannine Jannot, cites several categories of “parental influences,” where parents have good intentions, but which can backfire when applied too intensely in the life of the family. Here are some of them:

1. Too Much Praise

Kids understand when they receive lavish, unearned, overused, or inappropriate praise. This can have a negative impact on their performance as the value of the praise becomes watered-down because kids know it has diminished value. Kids understand when they have received a participation trophy, when they didn’t do anything all that special. Rather, encourage effort and determination in tackling difficult tasks, as this will foster self-confidence as challenges will be seen as fun and exciting rather than frustrating and threatening.

2.Protect, Shield, and Shelter

Parents who rush to their child’s defense every time something goes wrong in their life, don’t allow them learn to stand up for themselves and solve their own problems. Plus, it can create a sense of entitlement and dependency on other people to intercede for them. When a negative situation arises in your child’s life, whenever possible, sleep on it, talk to a trusted friend, or write your thoughts down in a journal, in order to get your emotions centered.

3. Alleviate Stress

Many parents cannot handle it emotionally when their children are stressed or uncomfortable, even in minor ways. A common response is for the adult to alleviate the stress for their teenager, because that is what a loving parent does, as the rationalization goes.

But stress is a natural part of life and designed to aid in survival, when properly managed. From a biological perspective, the body’s stress response is quite complex. The brain and adrenal glands release the hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and epinephrine, which gives a burst of energy. The liver delivers sugar and fat into the bloodstream, then non-essential systems such as digestion and the immune system slow down, and smaller blood vessels constrict to limit blood flow in case of an injury. These are natural and healthy responses in the animal kingdom and with humankind as well.

Parents who are tempted to alleviate stress, even when the kids don’t need it or want it, can hinder their child’s physical and emotional development. They can even unintentionally sow seeds of doubt about their own abilities to handle hard situations.

4. Indulge

Parents should provide children with the things they need, such as food, shelter, clothing, and education. And they ought to try and provide children with things they want up to a reasonable point. But children who are given everything do not appreciate the amount of hard work their parents exert to achieve success in life. When something is given and not earned, there will likely be skewed expectations and disappointments as they get older.

Parents have a duty to say “no” to their child once in a while. And in the context of the family, when the kids become prioritized over everything else in life, something loses out. It might be one’s job, marriage, or even one’s own mental and emotional health.

5. Responsibilities and Expectations

If kids and teenagers don’t have chores and responsibilities around the house, then assign them. It doesn’t need to be done with a parental lecture on the philosophy of hard work attached, but just an expectation moving forward. The good habits will form quickly.

Teenagers and young adults who have little to no household responsibility may have a difficult time transitioning to living outside their parents’ home. No one wants to be the roommate of someone who refuses to take out the trash.

In her summary conclusion with regard to parental influences and styles, Dr. Jannot writes, “Decades of research support the finding that the best outcomes for our children are associated with being raised by authoritative parents who offer unconditional love” (Disintegrating, p. 98). Love isn’t base on performance, especially comparing performance to others. Nor is love without boundaries and expectations. Finding the right balance in these areas listed above is different from child to child, and will require never-ending reflection and wisdom as we raise our kids and teenagers the best we know how.

From the perspective of how our executive function coaches work with teenagers, keep the focus upon improvement, rather than perfection; reaching one’s own potential, rather than comparison toward others. And one day, hopefully, our children have grown to become independent, confident adults, content with who they are and who they are not.

Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash

Screens, Teens, and Automobiles

By Adolescents/Teens, Executive Functioning No Comments

The explosion of cutting-edge technology has exponentially increased in the power of computer processing, software, and phone apps, and over the past several decades has improved life overall.  But these powerful tools must be handled with caution.  
 
Compare the technological advancement of computers and phones to the automobile.  The invention of the automobile was a revolutionary technological advancement, but placed in the hands of teenagers, an automobile can be a deadly weapon.  Statistical analysis shows that an inordinate amount of car accidents, injuries and deaths are attributed to drivers between the ages of 16 and 25 years old.  You can’t even rent a car until you are 25!  No one would throw the keys to the car at their 16-year old without specific training and licensing.  Kids and teenagers using cutting-edge technology requires similar protocol as driving an automobile; students need to be taught how to use technology responsibly so they are not hampered academically, emotionally, socially, and physically.
 
Here are some examples of the collateral damage related to the overuse of screens by teens and their effects upon the executive functioning of the brain:
 
1.     Wasted time.  Students who get lost into a gaming world, watching videos, or just reading comments on Instagram lose track of time and can waste hours in a single day.  Time management, initiating tasks, and understanding how much time is needed to finish a project are a few executive function skills with which every teenager naturally struggles.  
 
2.     Sleep problems.  According to research conducted by the Harvard Medical School, the blue light emitted from screens such as smartphones and TV monitors can interfere with natural sleep patterns because it suppresses the secretion of the hormone melatonin.  Sleep deprivation leads to a myriad of executive function problems.
 
3.     Short-term memory loss.  This is directly connected to sleep deprivation, as deep REM sleep is crucial for brain development, and for processing and storing information, even from the day before.  Focus, concentration, staying on task, and recalling important information are executive function areas that are affected here.
 
4.     Lack of exercise.  The allure of screens, which often involves sitting for long periods of time is one major factor that can cause the bodies of teenagers to atrophy, leading to obesity and other side-effects such as diabetes.  Students need exercise to keep their metabolism up, maintain strong muscles, and to relieve stress.  It is highly recommended that students take periodic breaks from studying, but then get a quick burst of exercise; even a short, brisk walk can settle and refocus the mind.
 
5.     Addiction.  Viewing screens can be highly addictive.  Numerous university studies have determined that the brain interacting with a smartphone is similar to a brain on cocaine.  In both cases we get a “high” every time a notification pops up or we get likes on our last Instagram post.  Physiologically, it’s the dopamine, the “feel-good” chemical in our brains that is released whenever we experience something enjoyable.  This is primarily connected to “time wasted” above.  But in this case, students haven’t lost track of time, rather they intentionally choose not to transition to homework or other responsibility not as “fun” as screen time.
 
For teenagers who already struggle with executive function skills, the distraction from the screens on their phones and other devices can be crippling to the more important tasks they need to accomplish on a daily basis.  Screens can be a serious obstacle to motivation, organization, time management, initiating tasks, concentration, short-term memory, and other executive function skills that kids and teenagers must sharpen in order to become successful adults.  The Dayspring Executive Function coaches will work with parents to help equip and monitor this aspect of a student’s daily life.  Managing this powerful tool successfully can be a pathway to help each student reach his or her full potential.  

Respectful Ways to End a Contentious Conversation

By Anger, General No Comments

One thing we all have in common is that we don’t always agree with one another. Over time we’ve come to accept that there are times when we must respectfully disagree with someone and move forward. Unfortunately, it’s become increasingly difficult to agree to disagree in today’s divided America.

Television and social media reflect the strain political disagreements has placed on people with their family, friends and co-workers. This has only served to magnify the division, making it seemingly impossible to have a civil conversation with someone you don’t agree with. An argument with a loved one or family member could cause you many problems, and an argument with a boss or co-worker could cost you your job. If you find yourself in a heated exchange and you need to diffuse it fast, here are some ways you can politely end that difficult conversation.

Listen

When we’re arguing, typically we’re not listening, but only wanting to be heard. If you want to end an argument respectfully, stay quiet and let the person vent without interruption. You will want to argue with them or defend yourself or your point of view, but if you want to end the conversation on a positive note, it’s best to let them get in the last word.

Ask Questions

Use your natural curiosity to ask questions of the person you’re arguing with. Do so without condescension or sarcasm, but with genuine interest. Even if you already know the answer (or don’t care to hear what it is), asking questions will diffuse the argument by giving the other person an opportunity to share their viewpoint with you. You can then end the conversation politely by saying something like, “That’s an interesting perspective. I never thought about it that way.”

Find Common Ground

To end an argument on a positive note, you can steer the conversation toward things you both agree on. It’ll be easier to end the discussion on a positive note. If they try to steer the conversation back to the heated issue, change the subject to something positive, or let them speak then say “I can respect that. Thanks for sharing your point of view with me.”

Remember the Golden Rule

The old adage “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a common saying for a reason. Treating other people as you would like to be treated is one of life’s basic principles. When you vehemently disagree with someone, it’s difficult to treat them with kindness. But by having empathy for others, you’ll develop character and patience; qualities that will serve you for a lifetime.

 

Are you struggling to get along with friends, family or co-workers? A licensed mental health professional can help equip you with the skills you need to improve your relationships. Call my office today and let’s schedule a time to talk.

4 Tips for Raising Healthy Eaters

By General No Comments

You know that good nutrition is important for your child’s physical health. But did you know it’s also critical for their mental health as well? Hippocrates, the father of medicine said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

With that in mind, here are 4 tips for raising healthy eaters.

1. Give Your Kids Whole Foods – Not Processed

As much as possible, serve your kids fresh foods free of preservatives, additives, and excess sugar. To do this, you’ve got to read those labels.

For instance, your child, like many others, may want to eat peanut butter sandwiches for lunch every day. But most commercial peanut butters typically include added preservatives and copious amounts of sugar. Try and find peanut butter made only from fresh peanuts and no additives.

2. Healthy Breakfasts

Starting your child’s day with a healthy breakfast high in protein and whole grains and low in sugar will set them up for a day of learning and physical activity. While it’s hard to get the family together for breakfast, sitting down with them to eat is a great way to get them to gobble up their eggs instead of lamenting over the bowl of sugary cereal they can’t have. Plus, this morning time is a great opportunity to talk with them about their goals and hopes for the day.

3. Essential Omega Fatty Acids

A new study suggests that supplementing kids diets with omega-3 and omega-6 acids may improve problem behavior in children and adolescents with ADHD. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are called “essential” acids because the body needs them to build healthy cells and maintain brain and nerve function.

Omega-3 acids can be found in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna, as well as from walnuts and flaxseeds. Other nuts such as cashews and almonds (try almond butter instead of peanut butter) contain omega-6 as well as omega-3. Try the classic tuna fish sandwich for lunches and sprinkling chopped nuts onto oatmeal in the morning.

4. Let Your Kids help You Prepare Meals

People who prepare fresh meals made from whole foods tend to be healthier than people who eat primarily packaged foods. It’s important to teach kids early that taking a little time to prepare a meal (instead of microwaving a frozen dinner) will ultimately lead to a healthier and happier life.

Kids love to help in the kitchen, so invite yours to help prepare family meals. Show them how quick and easy it can be to create a healthy dinner.

While good nutrition can go a long way in helping children deal with and overcome mental health challenges, such as ADHD, sometimes speaking with a family therapist can also help a family to communicate more effectively and begin healing.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

Let’s Go for a Walk: How Regular Exercise Can Aid Mental Health

By General No Comments

By now, most of us know that exercise offers numerous health benefits. From maintaining an ideal weight, to reducing the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis, moving our body every day improves the length and quality of our lives.

But not all of us recognize just how important exercise is to our mental health.

Beyond Hormone Release

Most of us have had that rush after a hike or trip to the gym. We feel energetic and even happy after we exercise. Of course, we now know that when we exercise, our body releases “feel-good” hormones such as endorphins and enkephalins. These hormones instantly improve our mood and outlook on life.

But is that all exercise is good for? A quick fix? An instant mood pick-me-up via a hormonal rush? Or can exercise effect our brains and mental health on a fundamental level?

A study conducted by researchers from Duke University compared the antidepressant effects of aerobic exercise to the popular antidepressant medicine sertraline, as well as a placebo sugar pill. After four months the researcher found that those subjects who exercised regularly experienced the greatest antidepressant effect.

In other words, exercise was scientifically proven to be just as, if not more effective than prescription medications at relieving symptoms of depression.

How is this possible?

It turns out, regular exercise increases the volume of certain brain regions through better blood supply and an increase in neurotrophic factors and neurohormones that support neuron signaling, growth, and connections.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that exercise leads to the creation of new hippocampal neurons, the hippocampus being incredibly important for learning, memory creation, and emotion regulation.

So, How Much Exercise Do You Need?

Psychiatrist Madhukar Trivedi of UT Southwestern Medical Center has shown that three or more sessions per week of aerobic exercise or resistance training, for 45 to 60 minutes per session, can help treat even chronic depression. The key here is regularity, so it’s important to focus on the kind of exercise you do.

If you don’t like going to the gym, then find another activity. Hike, bike, swim, or dance. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you get your body moving for around an hour a few times per week and you do so consistently.

In order for all of us to be entirely healthy, that means physically as well as mentally healthy, it’s important to incorporate exercise into our every day life.

How to Help Your Child Athlete Through a Loss

By Adolescents/Teens, Children, School & Academics, Sports / Exercise No Comments

Kids love playing sports. And parents love that their kids can get all of that excess energy out while learning the benefits of hard work and comradery.

But with the thrill of competition comes the hard reality: that sometimes you lose. Some children are barely affected by a loss. They are truly happy just running around on the field or court with their friends. Other children, however, can be almost devastated by a loss.

There are a few things you can do if your child seems to struggle after losing a game:

Listen

Don’t assume you know exactly what is bothering your child. Before you provide any advice, listen to how and what they are feeling so you know how best to address the issue.

Ask Questions

Some kids, especially very young ones, may have a hard time processing their feelings. They know they feel bad, but they can’t express exactly what it is that is bothering them. Consider asking questions like:

• What part of the game was the most and least fun for you?
• Were you satisfied with your efforts?
• What did you think you did well, and what could you work on for the next game?
• What was something important you learned from today’s game?

Don’t Deny Reality

There is no point in telling your child that it doesn’t matter (when it does to them) or that they did great (if they didn’t). They know the truth and if you’re denying it, they’ll have a hard time believing anything you say in the future.

Instead of denying reality, be open with your child while gently guiding the conversation toward future strategies for positive outcomes.

Don’t Try to Protect Your Child

Many parents try to shield their child from feeling any negative emotions. While you may think you are protecting your child, the fact is, disappointment and loss is a part of life. Losing a game is actually a pretty good life lesson.

Disappointment and sadness feel bad, but you don’t want to teach your child to avoid bad feelings. These feelings play a key role in your child’s emotional, intellectual and social development. It is important for your child to learn to deal with setbacks now so they don’t derail them as adults.

Avoid your instinct to “protect” your child from disappoint. Instead, guide them through their emotions and help them learn to cope.

 

If your child has a particularly hard time dealing with loss and disappointment and you would like to have them talk to someone, please be in touch. I’d be happy to discuss treatment options.

4 Reasons to Start Therapy in 2021

By General No Comments

If you’re like most people, you brought in the new year with a list of resolutions. And if you’re like most people, all of those resolutions have one goal: to better your life in some way. Whether that is through eating right, working out, learning a new language or decluttering your home office, resolutions are made to help us live our best lives.

In all of these instances (health, weight loss, decluttering) therapy can help.

You see, most people believe mental health therapy is something you seek when there is a major crisis; when we need help navigating depression or anxiety; when we’re going through a big transition, or when our marriage is on the verge of collapse.

And while therapy can absolutely help with all of these scenarios, it offers numerous benefits you may not have thought of:

Therapy Can Boost Physical Health

Different therapy protocols have been shown to improve different physical symptoms associated with stress. This includes a reduction in migraines, digestive upset, better appetite and improved sleep.

Builds Self-Awareness

Many of us think we are running our lives when really, our lives are being run by subconscious programming from early childhood. Therapy helps clients understand where feelings, beliefs and behaviors really come from. Through treatment, individuals can become more self-aware and empowered to take responsibility for the lives they are creating. In this way, THEY create their lives instead of their lives being something that is happening TO them.

Explore Hidden Desires

Of course, self-awareness also means becoming aware of your passions and desires. Many people spend a majority of their life doing what others want instead of what THEY want. And many people simply don’t KNOW what they want in life.
Therapy can help you become an archeologist of sorts, digging into your heart, mind and soul to uncover what it is you value, love, desire, need and want.

Therapy Helps You Reach Goals

It’s the new year and we all have new goals that we are hoping to reach. Well, therapy can help you reach those goals!
A trained therapist can help you set achievable goals as well as help you outline the micro steps you’ll need to take to get there. They can also then act as coach and cheerleader, supporting your efforts to reach your goals.
Yes, therapy is something that you can turn to for depression, addiction, and help with your crumbling relationships. But therapy can help with so much more. If you’d like to explore treatment options in the new year, please get in touch with me.

SOURCES:

How to Keep Your Child from Obsessing Over Academic Success

By School & Academics No Comments

Almost everybody in America knows what a GPA is. The Grade Point Average, a standard of measuring academic achievement in the United States, unfortunately tends to be seen as a definition of a student’s intelligence and potential. What is meant to measure achievement can be a destructive and discouraging system for many students. If your child is obsessed with getting good grades, this can be harmful to their creativity, their individuality, and their mental health.

Why Do Kids Get Obsessed with Getting Good Grades?

Many times, kids are obsessed with getting good grades to please their parents. You may have had a reward system for when your child got good grades – you may have celebrated their good grades or punished them for not meeting your expectations. Naturally, a child wants their parent’s love and approval.

If you can in good conscience say that your child’s obsession with getting good grades has nothing to do with your influence, there may be other factors at play. She may have unrealistic ideas about what is needed for her to pursue a specific career. There may be a culture of grade obsession in her classroom or at her school. Talk to your child to see if they can identify reasons why they’re striving for high grades.

How Can You Stop Your Child from Obsessing Over Good Grades?

Help your child refocus by emphasizing the development of a good work ethic and a positive attitude. Teach your child that hard work in the end is what counts; so that regardless of the grade they receive, they can never be disappointed knowing the effort they expended.

Of course it’s important to teach your child to work hard and always do their best. While grades are an important factor in their academic success, it doesn’t define them or their abilities. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Character is higher than intellect. A great soul will be strong to live as well as to think.”

 

Every person has their strengths and weaknesses, and tests and grades aren’t always the best measure of one’s knowledge or potential. Remind your child that it’s not about what they know, but who they are as a person that truly matters.

If you or your child need help making the best of their educational experience, a specially trained professional can help. Call my office today to schedule an appointment.

How to Find the Right Therapist in Your Town or City

By General No Comments

It’s a new year and many of us have committed to making changes that will allow our best selves to shine through. And in most instances, we know exactly how to get the help we need to facilitate this change.

For instance, if we want to get into good physical shape, we know to head to our local gym and get help from a personal trainer. If we want to eat better to prevent disease, we ask our doctor to refer us to a licensed nutritionist.

And when we want to work on our mental and emotional health, we know we should seek support from a licensed mental health counselor. But finding the right one can seem overwhelming to many and stop them from getting the help they need.

With this in mind, here are some tips on finding the right therapist in your local town or city:

Ask for Personal Recommendations

There was a time the topic of mental health was considered taboo. But luckily those days are behind us and many people are now open to seeking therapy. You may very well have a friend or family member who has or currently is working with a therapist they love.

Ask Your Doctor

If you already have a good relationship with a doctor, dentist, or anyone in the medical field who honors your confidentiality, they are a great resource to tap into about a mental health professional referral since they are connected to many people in the medial field.

Use Your Insurance Company

If you happen to be one of those lucky individuals with an insurance company that has a stellar customer service department, you might want to ask them to suggest a therapist in your network whom they have vetted.

Do an Internet Search

If you have no one you can personally ask, then you will need to perform an internet search for therapists in your local area. One of the best places to start your search is a website called Psychology Today. This site has a comprehensive list of therapists from around the country. To be listed on here requires a minimum of professional qualifications. In other words, a therapist cannot be listed on this site unless and until they can prove they have a legitimate advanced degree in their discipline and an up-to-date professional license or certification.

The beginning of the year offers all of us so much potential. Let this year be the year you deal with any issues you may be having so you can begin to live your best life!

If you live in the area and would like to explore treatment options, please reach out to me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

SOURCES:

How to Boost Your Self-Esteem

By Adolescents/Teens, Depression, Self-Esteem No Comments

What does it mean to have a healthy self-esteem?

Some people think it means you are okay with how you look. Other people think you must accomplish something big in your life to have a good self-esteem.

But the reality is, having a healthy self-esteem means you like and appreciate yourself faults and all. A good self-esteem can be the difference between being a happy, resilient individual, able to face life’s challenges head on, and someone who suffers from depression and anxiety and is often overwhelmed with life.

If you have struggled in the past with self-esteem issues, there are some things you can do to give it a much-needed boost:

Face the REAL Reality

Are you someone that generalizes your lack of self-esteem? By that I mean, do you make generalities about yourself such as, “I’m an idiot,” “I’m not pretty enough or smart enough?” The truth is, we all act like idiots from time-to-time, and most human beings on this planet can find someone who is smarter and more attractive than they are.

If you’re going to work on your self-esteem, you need to first recognize that you often lie to yourself with these generalities. It may be a very convincing lie from your point of view, but it’s still a lie.

To become familiar with reality, make a list of 10 of your strengths and 10 weaknesses. If you have a hard time coming up with your strengths, think about what others have said about you: you’re a good listener, you are thoughtful, you cook a mean burger.

When you’re done making this list, you’ll see there are plenty of things you are really good at. And, some of the weaknesses may be things you can absolutely change over time and with some effort.

Forget About Perfection

Perfection doesn’t exist. Now you may think all of those Hollywood A-listers that are on the cover of magazines are the epitome of perfection, but even they are air-brushed, photoshopped and have a team of people following them around so their hair is never out of place.

Stop spending your energy trying to have the perfect face, body, bank account, career, children or relationships. None of that exists. Focus your energy on achieving attainable goals like obtaining your degree and enjoying hobbies.

Get to Know Your Authentic Self

We spend so much of our lives comparing ourselves to others that we don’t really take the time to get to know ourselves. Beyond strengths and weaknesses, who are you as a person? What makes you happy or excites you? What hobbies do you enjoy? What kind of brother or sister are you?

The more you know about yourself, the more chances that you’ll find things out you really like.

If you would like to speak to someone about your self-esteem issues, please be in touch with me. I’d be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.