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Posted by on in kids
Therapy with kids and teens

Some say don’t work with children and animals, I am not one of those people!

Working with kids and teens is hugely rewarding. It can also be very challenging and lots of fun. Working with young people is quite different to working with adults. Therapy with adults usually involves sitting and talking, therapy with kids and teens can involve sitting and talking but more often than not sees us (therapist and young person together) drawing, story-telling, role playing, creating, playing even being silly (that is if silliness is clinically indicated and I assure you it can be).

It takes a great deal of courage to meet with a new person for the purpose of therapy. What will they ask? What should I say? What will they (the therapist be like)? What if they don’t like me? What if I don’t like them?

Creating a safe, respectful and comfortable therapeutic space is essential if we are to then invite young people to share their thoughts and feelings. In the absence of child and adolescent focused engagement techniques we fail to genuinely connect with young people and so the therapeutic process is hindered. Dr Dan Hughes (Clinical Psychologist) talks about creating a special PLACE for the children in our lives – Playfulness, Love, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy. In creating this special place for young people in therapy we are giving then the best shot of resolving their worries and challenges and we give them a positive experience of help seeking.

This Blog draws from some of the wisdom and experience of Kathryn Geldard and David Geldard, Violet Oaklander and Dr Dan Hughes.

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Posted by on in Depression

The term ‘Depression’ is used to describe feelings and experiences. To majority of the population being depressed basically means that you are feeling down, sad, or upset. However, it is important to distinguish depression from sadness because a person can feel these emotions without being ‘clinically' depressed. The big difference is that normal feelings of sadness are generally brief and do not impact on your day to day functioning. You can still go to work, go out with friends while not feeling amazing and ecstatically happy you can still get on with your normal functioning. Depression has become so common that it is often referred to as the “common cold” of mental illness. Approximately 12 out of every 100 people globally at any given point of time are undergoing an episode of depression.

Have you ever endured a day where absolutely everything’s went wrong.. You kicked your toe getting out of bed, the hot water run out during the shampoo cycle of your shower, the milk is off, which you only realised after your first mouthful of cereal, you caught every red light red light on the way to work and so on and so on so that it literally feels like it will never end. In a way being depressed is slightly similar to that horrible day where everything keeps going wrong except there is NO break in the cycle. Which leads to feelings of hopelessness.
When a person is depressed, they may not feel they have enough energy to get up from bed or do any of the daily routine that we tend to do without too much effort. They feel tired ALL the time have difficulty concentrating on work/study or other activities. There sleep cycle is interrupted or changes either sleeping too much or not enough. They eat poorly and gather no joy from any activity or anyone. Sometimes it impacts so much on them and their life that they are unable to take care of themselves and yet feel too ashamed of asking for help, worrying about judgement or criticism. The big factor is the insistent internal voice that is constantly running them down bringing all past events under the microscope to ridicule and judge them thus impacting on their confidence and self-esteem.

It is very important that people who feel depressed or who think they may be depressed understand what depression is and how to move through it. It is very easy to get swept up in this mood but it is most important to remember is that it is not your “fault” or “weakness” that you are depressed. Nor can you just “snap out of it” as most friends/ relatives/ well-wishers will suggest. It helps to talk to someone so you can process and understand the chaos that you are feeling. Regrettably most people do not seek treatment and end up suffering. Depression is not permanent – there are number of psychological and pharmacological treatments (antidepressant medication) that are effective, affordable and readily available.

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Posted by on in family
The Tough Teen Years

Modified from Dr Lauran Kastner book ‘Getting to Calm’ she is a very cleaver lady and one of my favourite work authors.

When kids hit the teenager years and the preteen years it’s a HUGH transition for most parents. Our children begin to be heavily influenced by their peer group and that often makes things difficult with the rules of our households.
One the hardest things during this time is that as parents we lose our children automatic respect and we have to start earning it! YIKES Lets be honest when they were younger all had to do was turn up and they thought we were great. Our old style of parenting with punishment to control our children’s behaviours (including timeouts and consequences) is no longer working. In fact, most of the time we are really not too sure what they are up to when they are away from us.
Our job as parents is to lay the groundwork so that our children know right from wrong and start to act on it. Part of that groundwork includes a strong parent-child relationship so the child really does not want to disappoint us and WANTS to cooperate. It also includes teaching our children how to gains the ability to regulate their emotions, which lets them regulate their behaviour. Believe it or not research tells us that children who are lovingly guided to make amends and solve problems, are the ones who develop their internal discipline and gain a strong moral sense. Basically that means for us as parents to be respectful, give positive guidance right from the beginning. That raises our youth to be respectful, considerate, responsible, self-disciplined and delightful. (Just like us  ).
Here are some tips on how to establish that kind of parenting;

1. Agree with your child on non-negotiable family rules. No 1 - Talk in a respectful manner, Establish household RULE that is enforced by everyone. Kids lose respect for parents who yell because let’s be honest if your yelling you have lost control of your own emotions. . There shouldn't be many of them, stick to the important stuff. We need our kids to be involved so they have a sense of control and ownership of their behaviours.

2. Strengthening your relationship with your child so that when you set limits your child actually wants to co operate because of the relationship, not because of what you are asking them to do. To strengthen your relationship you need to make one-on-one time with them. During this time its quality time over quantity therefore do not talk about subjects that you know cause an issue. The purpose is to strengthen so enjoy each other.. listen to their music ask WHY they like it (because good chance you wont) Physical touch works wonders try a should massage or tickle their back/hair. If your child doesn’t enjoy being with you then you cannot hope to influence them.

3. No more Cotton Wool parenting allow them to experience natural consequences. When we worry about our children and FIX things for them we protect them from natural consequences. Eg Did not hand in their permission slip for the class trip, they will learn an invaluable lesson if you don't rescue them.

4. Stop punishing. OOOOH yes this one always hits a chord…. We need our developing adults to learn about self-discipline this will develop when they start to CHOOSE to give up what they want for something they want more. What do they want more? To follow your lead and have a good relationship with you. So focus on the relationship instead of punishment.

5. Focus on teaching your child to repair their mistakes. Worried that your child isn't being "held accountable"? Introduce the concept of reparations. This isn't a consequence (punishment) that you impose. This is when you ask your child if there's something he can do to make the situation better now. For instance, if he says something mean to his sister, he'll need to do some repair work on that relationship. If he breaks something, he'll need to help pay for a replacement. But remember that if you think up the reparation and force it down his throat, it only makes sense that he'll reject it. Instead, let this be an empowering opportunity for him to learn that we all make mistakes -- and we can always take action to make things better.

6. Reinforce their developing “good judgment” by reflecting. Discuss rather than lecture remember as soon as you start lecturing “click” out go the lights – they will no longer be listening. Questions that work 1000 times better than a lecture are –

  • "What were you wanting to have happen when you did this?"
  • "Was there some part of you that said 'Don't do this'?"
  • "What got into the way of you listening to that part of you?"
  • "How did that work out for you?"
  • "How did it work out for other people involved?"
  • "What else could you have done?"
  • "Right, you could have done do you think that would have worked out? What would have happened then?"
  • THEN help them to repair their mistakes. Let’s face it they are going to make a few over this time!. So teach them to start to repair it themselves so they are "held accountable" . This is when you ask your child is… there's something he can do to make the situation better now. They will need to do some repair work on whatever went pear shaped, don’t FORCE them to DO IT instead create an opportunity for them to learn that we all make mistakes -- and we can always take action to make things better.

7. Be kind but firm. It’s an absolute GIVEN that your child will test the limits just to make sure you are serious! Stay Calm and be consistent.

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How to teach your kids EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE!

1st and most important step is to know “What is Emotional Intelligence?” – we can’t teach what we don’t know or understand. A nice definition is;

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to monitor one's own and other people's emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour

Ok wonderful now what!!   

In my practice I beg and borrow information from my learning and experience and bring it to my practice. To tease out years and years of knowledge is tough so I’ll start with the disclaimer that some is mine and some is other people’s information and learning. 

Emotional Intelligence is very basically the ability to IDENTIFY AND LABEL (see hear feel remember) your emotions and those of others. Example; I feel sad (labeled it) I know I’m sad because I can see my body language with my shoulders slumped my head hanging.  I can (hear) the sad words that I am saying and I (feel) tired, with a pain in my stomach and tears running down my cheeks and that nothing seems to be ok. I (remember) being in this mood before and I felt irritable and touchy and people go upset with me. Example of Others - Tom is Sad, I know he is sad because he is saying (hear) sad words and I can (See) him crying with his shoulders slumped and head hanging. I can (Feel) it when I’m next to him that I feel a bit sad too and I (remember) feeling the same way too once before when my I go in trouble at school. 

When you have good emotional literacy you are able to harness these emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problems solving; Well I know I’m sad because I did not do well in my math’s assignment and that feels bad.  So “what do I have to do now” to do better next math’s assignment, well I could go home and read over the mistakes and learn what I did not get right.

You also need to be able to manage that emotion to problem solve how to cheer up or calm down another person. Well I know I always feel better when I listen to my favorite band or when I ring my best friend and talk about what we will do on the weekend. Others I know Tom is sad and it would make him feel better if I went and sat with him and asked if he was ok and then asked him to play with me.

As parents we need to embraced it as a parenting concept so we can teach our children how the emotions we feel impact on what we do, what we think, the decisions we make, how we interact with others.  When we can understand this concept we can be more proactive and better at whatever we want to do.   I have a bunch of cool tools to help you and your children monitor and understand how to establish or maintain this process.


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