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Adolescents/Teens

How Learning Disabilities Affect a Child’s Mental Health

By | Adolescents/Teens, Children, School & Academics | No Comments

For many children and teens, learning disabilities are a frustrating part of life. Learning disabilities not only bring a sense of shame and isolation, but they can also lead to mental health issues in some children.

What Are Learning Disabilities?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a learning disability is any disorder of the fundamental psychological processes involved in understanding or using language. These can ultimately result in difficulties thinking, listening, reading, writing, math, and spelling.

Learning disabilities are quite common among young children and teens. According to the NCES, of the 7 million students who receive special education services in the country’s public school system, 33% have at least one learning disability. Common learning disabilities children deal with are ADHD, dyscalculia (trouble with counting and numbers), dyslexia, and others.

Learning Disabilities and Mental Health Issues in Children and Teens

While a learning disability isn’t a mental health issue in and of itself, both are closely related. When children and teens have a delay in learning, they can feel as if their academic efforts aren’t paying off. They can feel like a failure and, if their classmates aren’t sensitive, they can also feel like the butt of many jokes. This puts children and teens with learning disabilities at a higher risk of developing anxiety and depression.

It’s important that parents and teachers of students with learning disabilities look for any signs of anxiety or depression. These may include:

  • Sudden fear
  • Worrying
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Anger issues
  • Feelings of sadness and/or hopelessness
  • Changes in social behaviors (not spending time with friends)
  • Changes in appetite
  • Thoughts of harming themselves

Once any signs are noticed, parents should bring their child to a qualified mental health therapist. This professional will help the child manage their symptoms so they can better function at home and at school. Some sessions may include the parents while in other sessions, the therapist may want to work one-on-one with the child.

Many child psychologists use cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) to help children become aware of their own thoughts and feelings and then change their thoughts, emotions, and reactions to challenges at home and at school. CBT helps a child become independent and evaluate whether their thoughts and feelings or logical or distorted.

Does your child or teen have a learning disability? Do you believe this disability has caused them to develop depression or anxiety? If so, and you’d like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me. I would be happy to speak with you to see if I might be able to help.

 

SOURCES:

5 Ways to Get Your Teenager to Talk to You

By | Adolescents/Teens | No Comments

It’s tough trying to get your teen to talk. Science has shown that the teenager’s brain has yet to fully develop the frontal cortex, which is the area that controls our ability to reason, and to think before we act. As your teen’s brain develops, they’re also learning new things about themselves and their surrounding world; simultaneously, they’re dealing with hormonal changes out of their control.

For all of these reasons and more, it can be difficult to find ways to talk to your teen, or to get them to talk to you. Although it’s difficult, it’s not impossible; read on to find five ways to get your teenager to talk to you.

Learn to Listen

Take the time to listen to your teenager when they want to talk. Instead of saying you’ll talk to them later, step away from what you’re doing and listen to what they have to say. Don’t talk, interrupt or be quick to offer advice; just listen. Kids have thoughts and experiences that their parents don’t know about, and the best time to listen to them is when they’re asking to talk to you.

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

As you listen to your teen, your knee jerk response may be to quickly resolve their issue, offer advice or maybe even dismiss their complaints or opinions. Put yourself in your teen’s shoes; think about how you would feel if your spouse responded to you the way you respond to them.

Watch for Signs

Everyone has a desire to be heard and understood. As you talk to your teen, mirror back to them what you hear them saying. Watch for signs that they’re not being heard or understood by you. They might roll their eyes, shake their head, wave their hand at you or interrupt. When they’re nodding and/or silent, you’ll know you’ve understood.

Ask Specific Questions

Ask your teen specific questions rather than general “how was your day?” questions. Ask questions about a friend you know by name. Ask about a sport they participate in or a teacher they like. Ask open ended questions such as, “What was Mr. Burton’s class like today?”, or “What was the best thing that happened today? What was the worst thing?”

Location, Location, Location

When and where you try to talk to your teen matters. One of the worst times to talk to kids is after school. Just like you do after work, they need wind-down time. Instead, ask questions around the dinner table. It’s casual, and there’s no pressure for eye contact. The car is another great place to talk to your teen (unless their friends are in the back seat); they feel more comfortable because you’re not looking at them.

If you’re having difficulty communicating with your teenager and need some help and guidance, a licensed mental health professional can help. Call my office today and let’s set up a time to talk.

Teaching Kids Mindfulness: The Benefits and Easiest Ways to Do It!

By | Adolescents/Teens, Children | No Comments

“Pay attention!”

It’s a phrase that is uttered dozens of times a week (if not more) in households where children between the ages of two and 18 reside. How is it that when they WANT to, oh say when they are playing video games or watching cartoons, kids can have a tremendous attention span. But at any other time, getting them to be present is harder than getting them to close the refrigerator door!

While getting kids to pay attention can seem frustrating, there is an answer to the madness: mindfulness.

Mindful Kids are Happier Kids

Several studies have shown that kids who participate in mindfulness programs are happier. And the sooner you get kids started with mindfulness, the easier it becomes for them to develop a capacity to become calm and centered when life throws them stressful situations.

What does this look like in real life?

Well, picture how a normal 7-year old responds to a situation that is scary, overwhelming, and generally unpleasant. Say they are getting ready to take a hard test or going to the dentist. Most will become so fearful and anxious that they have a hard time being calmed by a parent or other guardian.

The 7-year old who practices mindfulness meditation knows to stop, closed their eyes, and breathe deeply to get themselves calm and focused.

The two outcomes are vastly different. That’s because meditation and deep breathing exercises actually change the physiology of the brain, according to scientists. Instead of kids reacting emotionally to a charged situation (being controlled by their emotions), children can control their impulses and reactions to that situation.

OK, but how do you get kids to practice mindfulness when it’s difficult to get them to do pretty much anything, let alone meditate!  Here are some ways you can help your kids become more mindful:

1. Help them discover their inner experience.

Spend time helping kids understand what is happening to their bodies during stressful and calm situations. Ask them to explore their emotions. The more insight they have into their inner experience, the better able they will be to control their responses to external experiences.

2. Breathe with Them

Practice deep breathing with your child. You can do it while driving or before putting them to bed at night. Share with them how to relax, slowly breathe in deeply and exhale. Invite them to feel any tension melt away.

3. Be a Good Example

Your child will not even want to try and be mindful and in control when they see you out of control. Are you one to yell at other drivers? Do you get far too angry when your dog tracks mud in the house? Does a telemarketer at dinner send you through the roof? If so, it’s time to try deep breathing and meditation yourself. Be an example. If your child sees mommy or daddy handling stress in healthier ways, they will be far more likely to give it a go.

While it will take some effort to get your kid to commit to practicing mindfulness, the results that it will bring to their life are completely worth it.

 

SOURCES:

Finding the Sweet Spot: Is Your Child Over-Scheduled?

By | Adolescents/Teens, Children | No Comments

Families are busy these days. Between a parent’s busy home and work life, and kids in school with after school activities, it can be hard to figure out a balance. Certainly activities outside of school will enrich your child’s life, but at what point is it adding value, and when is it pushing your family over the edge?

 

Lack of Sleep

It’s important to make sure your child is getting enough sleep. After they’re done with school and their extracurricular activity, they should have enough time to do homework, eat dinner, and get at least eight hours of sleep. If you have trouble getting them out of bed in the morning, if they’re lethargic all day or sleeping in class, your child may be over-scheduled because they’re not getting enough sleep.

 

Lack of Down Time

Kids benefit from unstructured time. Unstructured time helps them relax and decompress. It’s important to note however that screen time is not unstructured time. Time spent using electronics doesn’t relax them or help them decompress from the day. It doesn’t add stress, but it doesn’t take it away, either.

 

Your Child Acts Out When They Get Home

One of the biggest signs that your child is over-scheduled is if they come home from school and have a meltdown. When kids are at school, there’s much that’s expected from them. They have to have self-control all day, and a lack of unstructured time over the week can make them feel like they can’t take it anymore.

 

Finding a Balance

It can be difficult to find that sweet spot between a healthy number of activities for your kids, without your family having to sacrifice in other areas. First, evaluate how much time you’re spending on an activity. Include time spent at the activity, the time preparing, time spent at practice and driving to and from. Research shows that eight hours a week works best for children. Five to seven activities over the course of a year is at the top end of the “sweet spot” before extra activities start to have a negative impact.

 

Make a conscious decision to have some down time over the course of a year. Maybe pick a season not to have any activities scheduled for your children, so you can all enjoy some structured family life. Things like doing chores, helping with dinner, etc. is a boon to both children and families. Everyone benefits from family engagement.

If you’re a parent and you’re struggling or just need some support, call my office today and let’s schedule a time to talk.

Is Social Media Bad for Your Mental Health?

By | Addiction, Adolescents/Teens, Depression | No Comments

Have you been feeling a bit low lately, but you can’t quite put your finger on why? It may have something to do with your social media habits. According to a recent study, social media use can increase depression and loneliness.

For years people have suspected that social media use might have an ability to negatively impact our mental well-being. After all, it’s hard not to feel inadequate or jealous when looking at photos of people whose lives seem so much more perfect than ours. But now research is actually making a definitive link between spending time on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and a sense of loneliness and isolation.

It May be Time for a Social Media Detox

I encourage my clients to take a social media detox every now and then to gain a more positive sense of reality. They often report back to me that the detox offered some amazing and unexpected benefits such as:

Improved Self-Esteem

When you take a break from comparing yourself to other people, you can start to look at how great you and your own life really are.

New Interests and Hobbies

When you spend less time trying to get that social approval in the form of ‘likes’, ‘retweets’, and ‘upvotes’, you suddenly find you have a lot of time on your hands for other things.

Improves Your Mood

Trading in online friendships for real face-to-face ones makes us feel more grounded and connected to people. This can drastically improve our mood and sense of well-being.

Better Sleep

Many people are on their mobile phone in bed, checking their social media accounts. The blue light from these devices disrupts our sleep pattern. When we put these devices away, we inevitably sleep better.

Able to Enjoy the Moment More

I am a big proponent of daily mindfulness. By being present in our lives, we feel an increased sense of peace and joy. That’s priceless.

So how do you perform a social media detox?

Follow these 4 steps:

  1. Temporarily deactivate your accounts. Don’t worry, you can reactivate them again in the future should you choose.
  2. Remove all Social Media Apps and notification pathways from your devices.
  3. Use a web filtering tool to block social media sites. (Why tempt yourself?)
  4. Be prepared for some withdrawal symptoms and have other activities ready to replace the void.

If you follow these steps and take a break from social media, chances are you will find you feel a whole lot better!