How to Talk to Your Young Child About the LGBTQIA+ Community

As a parent or caregiver, it can be difficult to know the right thing to say when kids question what we deem to be adult topics. Broaching topics of sexuality can be awkward for both parties, however, it is a necessary conversation to have.

When it comes to talking about homosexuality and transgender individuals, children should be given age-appropriate information so they can better understand and empathize with others. Regardless of whether or not your child is LGBTQIA+, having a conversation about LGBTQIA+ issues will help reduce prejudice while teaching compassion and empathy.

When to Talk

It’s never too late to start a conversation on issues of sexuality with your children. While there may be initial discomfort and reluctance from preadolescent children and older, ultimately having these discussions with your children will help them develop a sense of safety and security with you, while it teaches them tolerance and acceptance.

For young children, the age of 5 is a good time to begin discussing these topics by sharing some basic information with them.

What to Say

For young children, keep the conversation simple and focus on basic concepts. When talking about homosexuality, you can explain to your child that just as a man and a woman can fall in love, so can a man with a man, and a woman with a woman. When talking about transgender individuals, you can explain that how a person looks on the outside isn’t always how they feel on the inside. You can refer to the familiar adage about “not judging a book by its cover.”

Children should understand the basic concept that even though people may look different than us, they are people just like we are and equally deserving of love, acceptance, and respect.

You Don’t Have to Know Everything

Your child may have questions that you can’t answer. It’s okay to admit to your child when you don’t know the right answer. This could be a discussion point for later after you’ve done some research, or it could be a good opportunity for you to learn from your child.

Are you a parent in need of parenting advice and support? A trained, licensed mental health professional can help. Call my office today, and we can set up an appointment to talk.

 

Mental Health Habits for 2021

We live in a society that seems obsessed with physical health and weight loss. A majority of people have tried one or more diets to lose weight. People join gyms, juice, and take supplements, all in an effort to optimize their physical health.

Sadly, most people don’t give their mental health a second thought.

The problem is, no matter how good you look in a bathing suit or how “ripped” you may be, or how low your cholesterol is if you aren’t mentally healthy, your life is negatively impacted.

In the age of Coronavirus, when many of us are dealing with health and financial struggles, the stress can really take a toll on our mental health. With this in mind, here are some good mental health habits to practice in 2021 and beyond:

Practice Gratitude

Gratitude is like a magic bullet when it comes to mental health. Too often, when we are feeling negative emotions, we deny our full reality, that is to say, we deny all of the wonderful things that are present in our life. Be sure to take realistic stock in your life each day and feel grateful for the people, events, and things in your life that bring you joy and happiness. And be sure to share your gratitude with others!

Value Yourself

The only thing worse than dealing with grief, sadness, and stress, is doing so while devaluing your own self-worth. Be sure to treat yourself as kindly as you do your loved ones. See the good in you and practice self-care and self-compassion every day.

Lose Control

Most of us cling to the idea that we can control every single facet of our lives. It’s just not true. This desire for full control brings with it a sense of anxiety. Make this year the year you finally let go of needing to control everything.

Surround Yourself with Positive People

Toxic people are bad for our mental health. It’s time to cut ties with those who bring you down in order to make room for people who will support you.
Along with these habits, you may want to consider speaking regularly with a mental health counselor, who can help you navigate any issues you may be dealing with and provide coping techniques.

If you’d like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me. Let’s discuss how I can help you make 2021 your best year yet!

 

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5 Ways to Get Your Teenager to Talk to You

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.

How to Boost Your Self-Esteem

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.

Creative Expressive Therapies for Kids and Teens

Life hasn’t been the same for any of us for many months now. As we continue to try and adapt our lives to safely deal with this novel coronavirus, it has taken its toll on many, both financially and emotionally.

Kids have been hit particularly hard during this time. At first, many might have thought the idea of no school was “awesome!” But as the weeks rolled on, and they found themselves away from their friends and their routine disrupted, many kids began to feel depressed and anxious about the future.

Summer vacation is supposed to be a time of fun and freedom, but with many states still in lock-down mode and masks still being mandated, this summer isn’t filled with the same kind of fun and freedom as usual.

How can you help your kids deal with the stress and anxiety at this time?

You can get them involved in creative expressive therapies. These therapies, such as art therapy, music therapy, dance therapy, and drama therapy, to name a few, have been successfully applied in psychotherapy and counseling for more than 70 years.

Creative expressive therapies are valuable in helping people of all ages navigate stress and anxiety but work particularly well with children and teens. One of the biggest benefits of expressive therapies is that they calm the nervous system. When we are focused on creating something, our focus shifts away from the very thing we are worried about and ruminating on. Once this shift has occurred, we also have more access to the rest of our brain and our thoughts and emotions stored there.

But the real reason expressive therapy is so good for kids and teens is that it allows them to express themselves in a nonverbal way. Ask a young child how they are feeling about things and they are liable to give you a shrug. But give them some markers and paper and all of their thoughts and feelings will come flowing out onto that paper.

There are a variety of creative expressive therapies that your child may find very helpful during this time. If you’d like to explore any of these options, please get in touch with me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help your child or teen cope with the anxiety they are going through because of the coronavirus.

 

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How Learning Disabilities Affect a Child’s Mental Health

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.

 

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