Tag Archive for Emily Roberts MA LPC

Are You Addicted to Caffeine?

Is your Starbucks habit actually an addiction? The American Psychiatric Association (APA) lists Caffeine Addiction, more specifically, caffeine intoxication and withdrawal as a mental disorder in the new DSM-V. A few cups coffee or soda everyday may not seem like a big deal, but it impacts your brain and body more than you may think. » Read more..

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Got 5 Minutes? Get Happier

Emily Roberts MA, LPC

If you are anything like me, you procrastinate, not a personality trait I’m proud of, but it is part of who I am. Perhaps for you it’s the to-do list you never actually “do”, your bills, laundry, cleaning, anything that is put off, and wind up stressing about later. I have noticed that these mundane tasks can actually cause more anxiety for me and many of my clients. Normal lists may not do the trick anymore because they get written and then never completed, thus more anxiety. So, rather than making myself feel bad for putting off yet another thing, I take five minute action breaks and start getting things done, my sense of satisfaction boosts and so does my level of happiness.

Here’s How it Works

You have five minutes, I know you do (get off Facebook or Instagram for a little while and you will find the time) and set out an area of your life you need to tackle. You can do this at work, at home, or even while your commuting. Today, I chose my desk. 

Set a timer.  Use your phone, the microwave, or your oven, whatever will ding to let you know time is up.

Get to work.  Make it a game, see how much you can accomplish; chances are you may even go longer than the time you set. I organized my files, grabbed a bottle of Windex, took out the trash, vacuumed, and put away anything that looked out of order. By the time I was done I had a few seconds left, and was smiling!  That was something I was dreading for weeks, and only took me about 4 minutes! I do this with many irritating tasks, responding to or organizing emails, paying my bills, sometimes I set it for longer, but when I keep the time frames small I feel accomplished and motivated to move forward with my day. You can do this multiple times throughout the day.

Use rewards.  Maybe you reward yourself by checking Twitter or having a piece of chocolate, or doing something fun.  Don’t go overboard here but, if its something you have really had a difficult time completing why not?  it will signal the reward center of your brain making you more likely feel better about finishing the task next time.

Many of my clients who have ADD/ADHD or who find that they procrastinate and then feel guilty have found this technique effective. Telling yourself or a child “the whole room needs to be clean” is a daunting task, and often times we get so overwhelmed by the big picture, we don’t see how easy it is to break it down into manageable assignments. Start with 5 minutes on a corner or a drawer, when your done find your inner cheerleader and give yourself a pat on the back.

So take 5, 10, or 15 minutes and start getting happier, and more control of your life, you have the time somewhere in your schedule, just make it happen. Have a tip that works for you? Please share! (3308)

 

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Emily Roberts MA, LPC is the clinical therapist for the Neurogistics Children’s Program. She has worked with Neurogistics for over a decade. Emily is also an award-winning author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Becoming Who You Are, Psychotherapist, TV & Media Contributor, educational speaker and parenting consultant.  Express Yourself is available at bookstores nationwide and on Amazon. To learn more about Emily click here.

 

 

 

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Tuesday’s Tips: Commuication Enhancers for Parents

By Emily Roberts MA, LPC

Have you ever been talking to a friend about something important, and you are really spilling your guts, while she appears to be half-heartedly listening?  Maybe she is checking her email, responding to a text, or folding the kids laundry; she may really hear you, but her body language tells a different story.  Does yours?

With good communication, family bonds grow stronger, your children open up more, family members hear one another, and trust is maintained.  Many children I speak to have confessed that they believe that their parents “don’t hear them”.  Interestingly enough, parents are telling me the same thing.  So what’s the problem?  Often times the way we listen that can be the problem.  We also teach our children to model our listening behaviors, if you give off the impression that you are somewhat listening, this closes the door for future communication with them.  Kids are smart, and they remember when they have been shut down, even if it just feels that way.

As a therapist, I have been trained to learn to listen.  There are techniques that I was taught to make sure that I convey a listening ear, they have worked wonders across the couch and even within my outside relationships. Here are a few tips to show your kids (and others in your life) that you are actually hearing what they say.

Eye Contact & Body Language

Do:  Look at them when they are talking to you. Make sure it is natural, not in a creepy bug-eyed, like you are trying too hard kind of way. Naturally looking at them, getting on their level physically and seeing their face conveys that you are hearing them, and you likely are as distractions dimish when you focus on their face.  Also nod.  Nodding is a subtle cue that you are following the story; think about when someone is listening to you, how do you know from their body language that they are paying attention? Do this.

Do: If it’s a bad time, stop what your doing for just a minute, get down on their level and look them in the eye, ask if its an emergency and if not then ask them if they would mind waiting ___amount of time.  Say “It will make me a better listener”.  Make sure to stick to the allocated time.  Respect them just like you would a good friend.

 Don’t: Look at your phone, the computer, TV, or even the chore you are in the middle of completing. Your child, not to mention anyone you are speaking with, gets the impression that you really aren’t fully here due to your body language.  You likely are not looking at them or facing them, which makes it harder to listen fully and hear what they are saying; plus, you are missing out on body language cues.

Take a Technology Break

Do: Put the phone down.  I have talked with hundreds of elementary and adolescent aged children. One of the biggest  complaints I hear is “When my mom/dad picks me up from school (dance, soccer, ect) and they are on the phone it puts me in a bad mood, I don’t want to talk to them afterwards.”  First of all, it’s illegal in most states to talk on the phone in a school zone, so hang up for that reason.  Secondly, it makes kids feel unimportant; as though they are a chore or burden (I had a third grade girl use the word burden in this situation). Use your car travel time as an opportunity to have uninterrupted time with your kids. Catch up on the day, play a game, talk about the music on the radio, stay connected.  

Do:  Talk about talking on the phone: Have you ever been stuck in the car with someone on the phone?  It’s annoying.  If you have to make a call, make it brief and let your child know in advance, as well as the party you are calling “Honey, I have to make a call to let Dad know we are running a few minutes late. Can you do me a favor and be quite for just two minutes?”  Also let the receiving end know you are in the car with the kids “I only have a second I’m in the car…” Keep it short.  If you want them to respect you when they get a phone, you have to do the technology teaching now.

Don’t: Text/email/Google and drive, even at a stop light.  Your kids will be drivers eventually and you are the role models for their driving behavior.  I had a young woman who told me her mother made her take the wheel while she was finishing an email, the girl was 14.  Needless to say, not the best role model, not to mention this particular client’s mother was always texting, emailing, or on the phone in front of her, she told me often she felt like work was more important than spending time with her. Sad.

Summarize and stick to the point

 Do:  Listen and summarize. A teenager will come into my office venting about her “horrible day”.  After her rant I may say “Wow, it sounds like you had a rough day!” or “Sorry to hear about that situation in the lunch room, that must have been really hard.  Is there anything I can do to help?” 

Do: Empathize and ask relevant questions. I suggest parents to listen and respond with empathy and feeling words “that must have been hard”, “Wow, tell me more.”  “It sounds like your handling this well, even with the rough day.”  “Really…What did he/she/your teacher say?” Too many questions may annoy them, so stick to relevant questions about the situation at hand. If they say they don’t feel like talking about it, let them know that you are here to listen when they are, don’t push them to talk- huge roadblock in communication.  Questions show others that you are following their story; AKA listening.

Don’t:  Change the topic or make it about you.  There is nothing more frustrating then when someone does this.  One of the biggest complaints I get from kids is when parents will immediately try and give them advice or use this time as an opportunity to recollect on their own childhood. Of course you are doing this as a learning tool, but most kids see it as taking away from their thunder, thus shutting them down, and the shutting the door to communication.  Use your stories about similar situations after they are done venting, and ask them if they want to hear how you handled a similar situation, don’t demand that they hear it.  They will stop listening, I promise.

Bottom line, notice when you don’t feel entirely heard; whether it by friends, spouse, or your children, and ask yourself  “Am I doing this to them?”  You may not be, but it’s always worth an introspective look, your children model much of your behavior.  Teach them to be good listeners, and better communication patterns will be developed. Also keep your word, if you say you will be off in two minutes get off in two minutes!  Kids use your word to gauge respect, and it feels disrespectful when one does not stick to their end of the bargain.

 

 

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Boundaries and Children: Are We Creating ‘Generation Entitled?”

By Emily  Roberts MA, LPC

Veruca Salt from 'Charlie and The Chocolate Factory'

I am constantly perplexed when I hear parents making excuses for the physical and mental health needs of their children.  “Sam doesn’t like protein so we give him bread and pasta, we don’t want to start a power struggle. “She doesn’t like the taste of x, y, or z, so we don’t want her to be uncomfortable.” Or “I’ll let her spend the night at that house with the parents who are never home; I don’t want her to be an outcast with her friends.” A few weeks, months or years later they come to see me wracking their brains on what “they did wrong” after parenting struggles have become out of hand.  “I was only trying to make them feels safe, so I didn’t want to punish them.” “I want to be their friend and their parent.”  Well, unfortunately, it is difficult to do both, especially with a child or teenager who is testing your boundaries. 

It is the job of a child and adolescent to see how much they can get away with, “If mom gives me one cookie, maybe she’ll give me two…”  “My curfew is at 10, I’ll see if I can get away with 10:15…” Pushing the envelope is something that we did growing up, and your child will do as well. However, most of the parenting experts and psychologists I have worked with suggest the same thing, they need you to make these boundaries for them, as their brains are not at a developmental capacity to do so; boundaries make them feel safe and loved. 

Sure the tantrum over the cookie or the argument over coming in late is not ideal, and can be stressful for both parent and child, but overtime it says something deeper. “I love you enough to help you make good decisions.”  It may not register right away, but isn’t you intention to help your child grow up to be a healthy, fully functioning, adult?  Putting rules in place, and sticking to them, with a little input from your child, can make a huge impact on their future functioning.  If he/she thinks she can get away with testing the limits at home, they will likely do it at school (if not overtly then within their peer group), with friends, and future relationships.  I see this happen all the time, and so do their peers. 

A 14 year old said to me “I have stopped hanging out with her because it’s always her way, she never lets me pick what we are going to do and it’s annoying.” Their peers pick up on their attitudes of entitlement and so do their teachers, not to mention their future employers.

Research conducted by Paul Harvey, assistant professor of management at the University of New Hampshire, shows that members of Generation Y are more entitlement-minded. Many of these college-grads came from families where there were little boundaries put in place.  For employers, that means more employees who feel entitled to undeserved preferential treatment, they are more prone to get into workplace conflicts, are less likely to enjoy their jobs, not to mention, keep their jobs.  “A great source of frustration for people with a strong sense of entitlement is unmet expectations. They often feel entitled to a level of respect and rewards that aren’t in line with their actual ability and effort levels, and so they might not get the level of respect and rewards they are expecting.” Harvey says.

So what do we do?  Set up some boundaries and learn to say “no”. 

When you hear “I don’t like it…”

Okay, I certainly understand not preferring particular foods, or even places.  Especially if your child is sensitive emotionally or tactically; therefore we wouldn’t want to push them to do something that could really trigger a long term avoidance or trauma.  However we do need to give them a little push sometimes. Growing up, when I did not like the taste of the cough medicine I still had to take it.  I made a fuss then, plugged my noise, sucked it up, and drank it.  And guess what?  It actually helped me; my parents helped me feel better.  So now as an adult instead of avoiding the “yucky” tasting supplements I need to feel well, I suck it up, 30 seconds of a detesting taste and I’m on my way to feeling better.  Not to mention, if it’s as task at work or at home, I don’t feel like doing, I have learned through this cough syrup experience (and probably many others), that it will be over soon enough.  A lesson I couldn’t have learned if my mom were to let me get away with things I didn’t prefer doing as a child.

When you hear “That’s not fair!”

Such an overused term by children and teens, but we have to remember, it really may feel unfair. We cannot discount their feelings.  It is so important to discuss with them why you are making this decision and get their feedback; let them talk, they feel more invested in the processes and heard. Often times I ask clients, “Okay your parents say you need to be home by …. What’s reasonable for you?  What’s a good compromise that your parents and you will be comfortable with?  What happens if you don’t arrive on time?”  Amazingly, they are likely to follow through with the rules and consequences if they know what to expect.

When you hear “You think you know it all.”

Parents, we do not know it all and neither do our children, however they do know quite a bit these days.  It so important to let them know that we make mistakes and that we didn’t always get it right when we were their age.  It is also imperative to let them explain to you how they feel about their situation or what they think they know, before rushing to give them advice.  From years of sitting across the couch from these kids let me tell you, they perceive things much differently than you may think, validate this.  Try “You know what, I am sorry I didn’t let you explain, you may be right.” Or “Can you tell me why you feel that way?  What can I do to help you?” or “This is just my experience, I think it could be helpful for your situation.”  This way we are not telling them we know it all, we are simply assisting them in listening to us, while modeling healthy communication.

The bottom line is that if we don’t start setting boundaries now, we are enabling this child to become a less successful adult.  They are less likely to make emotionally sound and physically healthy decisions when they “don’t have to”.  When I speak to adults, those who had parents who were “friends” or let them get away with more than they “should” report wishing they had more structure, and interestingly enough, often times envy a peer who had this structure in their family.  The ones who had parents who gave them boundaries report feeling “thankful” as they now are able to set limits with themselves and with others.  Be this parent!

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5 Great Gluten-Free Finds

By Emily Roberts MA, LPC

The gluten free (GF) isle at my local health food store has gone from a shelf of tasteless cardboard that appeased my GI tract, to a full array of pallet pleasing products that actually taste, get this…Delicious.  More Americans are eliminating gluten based products due to health concerns.   The term gluten-free is generally used to indicate a supposed harmless level of gluten rather than a complete absence.  So for those with severe celiac, sometimes GF is still not enough for their systems to tolerate. With kids having a food allergy can make them feel insecure around their friends, especially at the lunch table.  No kid I talk to wants to be eating a bland chicken breast or plate of tofu, while the rest of their friends and enjoying a kid-friendly PB&J.  Thank goodness there are GF products out there that look and taste the same. 

If your a carb-lover like me, than the idea of a GF diet can be like a death sentence.  However, with the right products, it doesn’t have to be.  In fact,  I can actually enjoy meals now,  instead of agonizing about how I’m going to feel after indulging in that plate of pasta primavera.  Here are some amazing GF products, that taste like the real thing.

Udi’s Gluten Free Bread:  tastes like its full of gluten but is not!  GF breads I have tried in the past had an odd texture and had to be toasted to taste palatable, you can eat this right out of the bag!

 Blue Diamond Nut Thins: Rice Crackers I eat these everyday, the texture is crisp and the different flavors allow you to have options in the snacking world! 

Pamela’s Simplebites Ginger Snap Cookies one word: DELICIOUS. They taste exactly like Gingersnaps I ate as a kid, full of wheat.  These are great treats for kids and adults alike.                  

Tinkyada Rice Pasta: The texture is RIGHT ON, and it tastes amazing.

Glutino Pretzel Twists:  I actually thought I grabbed a bag of regular pretzels. I could not taste the difference at all- perfect snack. 

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Facebook and Depression: In my Child?!

By Emily Roberts MA, LPC

Parents, if you think your child is not on Facebook or at the very least, has an email account, I am sad to say that you may be wrong. Most kids, over the age of 9 that I speak to have at least one email account, one that mom and dad know about and one that they created; either at a friends house or at school.  Kids today are SAAVY when it comes to the world of blogging, face-booking, and googling, they are even more so when it comes from hiding it from their parents. 90% of third graders I have worked with have a cell phone, use the phrase “I’ll just Google it”, and if they don’t have a facebook account, the chances are the child sitting next to them on the bus has one.  I have worked with hundreds of kids in the past few years, all of whom have faced challenges with managing the overwhelming feelings that come with having Internet access. Whether it be cyberbulling, compulsive texting, or feelings of sadness because no one “commented on their status.” Children today are more at risk for depression and low-self esteem with the increase use of technology.

A recent study found a correlation between Facebook and depression in children (read it here) Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe, lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics social media guidelines, told the Associated Press, that Facebook presents a special challenge for kids struggling with their own self-esteem.  As the AP summed it up :With in-your-face friends’ tallies, status updates and photos of happy-looking people having great times, Facebook pages can make some kids feel even worse if they think they don’t measure up.

So parents, be assured, that your kids may know more than you do when it comes to using the computer, however remember YOU ARE THE BOSS, technology is not a RIGHT it is a PRIVILEGE, that you control. Make sure you are up-to-date with current trends in Internet use, have your child take a class on Internet safety, and have open communication with your child on how much internet they consumed today.  Also ask your school’s PTA to hire someone who specializes in media awareness to come in and speak to both kids and parents, I have been contracted by national organizations and local schools many times this year to educate parents on whats really going on behind the screens and behind closed doors.  It empowers and educates kids and their parents. 

Here are a few great links :

Talking to Kids and Teens About Social Media and Texting

Health Media Diet for Your Kids

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Praise: Why “Good Job” Isn’t Good Enough

By Emily Roberts MA, LPC

Saying “I love you” and “great job” are phrases parents say all the time.  Often parents are so busy and frustrated that they say these words, but the child does not hear them.  Why?  The negative and often critical phrases that they hear all day are more powerful.  If you tell your child ” Your late again!” or ” Why can’t you do what I say the first time?”, they remember them, the negative charge decreases their feelings of accomplishment and self-esteem; comments like these stick with a child, and positive statements become obsolete, leading to low self worth.  If you think about it they are faced with these comments from others all day too.  Whether its a teacher “Timmy you really need to study harder” or a friend “My doll is prettier than your doll.”  Kids are faced with an enormous amount of negative feedback on a daily basis.

Dr. John Gottman reports that most parents say 5:1 critical or negative comments to their children, shouldn’t it be the other way around?    With generously using positive statements a child’s self esteem is boosted. Self-esteem is the beliefs or feelings that we have about ourselves, our self perceptions.  Self-esteem influences our attitudes, relationships, behaviors, and emotions.  Self-esteem can also be defined as the combination of feeling of being loved.  A child who is happy and has been recognized with achievements, if not loved still feels internally empty.

Low self-esteem is linked to a variety of behavioral and mental health problems, that your child can develop now, or later in life.  If I had a dollar for every young adult who told me,” My parents never told me they were proud of me, maybe they said it but they said a lot of things that made me believe otherwise” I would be a very wealthy woman.   It is never to late to help your child develop a healthy self-esteem.  Here are some tips to assist you and your child.

  • A good rule of thumb:  praise your child on the process rather than just the accomplishment. So “Great effort on that homework kiddo” instead of just “thanks for finishing your homework”.  This lets him know that you notice how hard he is working. 
  • Use phrases that can be generic but add your own unique twist. Rather than just “Super job!” try “Super Job on cleaning your room, it looks great!”  Adding what the praise is for helps a child feel accomplished.
  • Here are some phrases to get you started: Nice try! That really helped me! Way to go! That was awesome! I am proud of your effort! Keep up the good work! I am so proud of you! You made my day! You are such a hard worker! Thank you! Wow!  You are so special!  Well done!  Fantastic!  Great job!  Super Job!  You’ve got it!  Beautiful job!  You are unstoppable!  What a good idea!  Great job following directions!  You are such a good listener!  Good for you!  Keep it up!  You are unique!  You are so creative!  You are so precious!  You’re a winner!  I like when you do that!  Great try!  Fantastic Job!  Terrific!  You’re important!  You’re Phenomenal!   You’re such a trooper!  Super work!  You’re fun!  Great job sharing!  You are caring!  What an imagination!  Great effort!  You make me happy!  I trust you!  Outstanding behavior!  You played nicely!  You are a good friend!  I respect you!  Thank you for being respectful!  You mean the world to me!  You make me laugh!  You are wonderful!  You’re a joy!  Keep up the good work! Bravo!  Super!  You’re the best!  You made my day!  That was a good try!  I love you

Remember try and counter any negative or critical statement with a positive statement 5:1 positives versus 5:1 negatives, it helps create a child, and eventually an adult, who feels good about themselves.

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Seven Superfoods for Any Budget

By Emily Roberts MA, LPC

As I was checking out of my local health foods store last week, I had stunning realization. With less than ten items in my basket I had spent almost $50.00, were these products really worth the hefty price tag or did it make me “feel healthier” by purchasing them at this particular market?  The question is, when it comes to our budget, are we getting the most for our money; are the foods we are choosing to spend money on really even worth the price? Below are 10 Superfoods that weight very little on your pocketbook, and heavy on your families nutrition needs.

1. Yogurt:   look in your store’s dairy section and I guarantee you there is a sale on yogurt, even organic.  I have seen it as low as .59 cents recently and if you by it in quart size or six packs it’s even less expensive.  Yogurt is a great source of protein, calcium, and natural probiotics that keep your child’s gut happy and healthy.  It helps prevent cavities, increase immunity, and build strong bones.  On the label look for “live active cultures” and avoid added sweeteners. Yogurt is an easy, on-the-go snack; add it to granola or cereal instead of milk for a tasty breakfast.

2. Strawberries:frozen strawberries are a steal, and can be purchased for under 3.oo dollars depending on the store you frequent. Real strawberries those are the ones that are whole and actually look like a strawberry; skip anything that says “strawberry flavor”, has artificial colorings, preservatives, or corn syrup.   Fresh or frozen strawberries are high in vitamin C, are cancer fighters, and can decrease asthmatic symptoms. Remember to wash them well and pat dry. Fresh strawberries can be a sweet snack, and frozen ones can be added to yogurt, cereal, or smoothies.

3. Almonds: buying raw almonds in bulk can be as inexpensive as peanuts. Almond butter is usually around $4.00 for a 12 ounce jar. Almonds are a great source of vitamin E, antioxidants, protein, and a high source of monounsaturated fat; good fat that keep your brain running smoothly.  Almonds are also known to help prevent anemia, as it helps produce iron in one’s body. Add a handful of almonds to a salad, add to trail mix for healthy snack, or eat in “butter form”.  Almond butter is a great source of protein and can be substituted for peanut butter.

4.  Quinoa: At $1 a pound quinoa is inexpensive and nutrient dense. Quinoa is a complete protein and can substitute for less sustainable proteins. Compared to other grains, quinoa is higher in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, manganese, and zinc.  The texture is light and fluffy, which most kids love.  Add beans for a great rice substitution and protein packed meal.

5. Black Beans: A can of these guys may run you $0.89-1.99 depending on the brand; never the less is a great substitution from refried beans or anything laden in lard. Black beans are a good source of foliate, dietary fiber, manganese, protein, magnesium, vitamin B1 (thiamin), phosphorus, and iron. 

6.  Kale At just over a dollar a bunch, kale is a member of the dark, leafy greens group. It’s loaded with vitamin C and vitamin B as well as calcium, and has known cancer fighting properties. Kale is also known as a great source of soluble fiber, which many children (and adults) do not get enough of in their diets  Use as an alternative to your usual steamed veggie, add to a stir fry or pasta dish, it is packed with more nutrients than your usual vegetable.

7. Blueberries:  At less than $3.00 a container, even less for frozen, blueberries are easy on the budget, but packed with power.  The antioxidant-rich fruit provides bodies with protection from sun damage, and have been shown to slow the rate of pre-cancerous cells; they also help boost immunity.  Add some to a smoothie, yogurt, or cereal. Grab a handful as an alternative to a treat, their natural sweetness can curb any sugar craving.

So you don’t always have to break the bank when it comes to eating well.  Maybe heading to the regular grocery store to stalk up on these basics is in order.  For more information on Superfoods that are kid and family friendly check out http://www.superkidsnutrition.com/superfoods.php and awesome site for parents with information from dietitians and nutritionists.

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Depression on the Rise in College Students

By Emily Roberts MA, LPC

One out of every four college students that visits their universities health centers turns out to be depressed; two to three percent of them are suicidal, according to Maria Paul at Northwestern University.  This is a scary number, one that has in fact grown astronomically in the past decade.  The study also concludes that more discussion on depression symptoms and screenings need to occur in the college clinics and on campus.  Read more here

Young adults who are suffering from depression and anxiety are more resilient in their college years, and therapy, medication, and awareness are key in prevention of life-long suffering. Although they are going through major life changes; homesickness, changing friend groups, managing time, poor diet, there is room to grow and change neurochemically. For more information on findings of current research and the American Psychological Association (APA) suggests click here for the NPR story.

Symptoms of depression, especially in college-aged persons are:

  • An overwhelming feeling of sadness or despair
  • A feeling of hopelessness and that “it’s never going to get better”
  • A loss of interest in activities that typically make you happy
  • Physical aches and pains, such as back pain, that seem to have no cause
  • Appetite changes
  • Excessive weight loss or gain over a short period of time
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Sleep disturbances (either insomnia or the desire to sleep excessively)
  • Strong feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or low self-esteem
  • Strong feelings of worry or anxiety
  • Trouble with concentration
  • Thoughts of death or suicide (seek help immediately!)

Read more at Suite101: College Students and Depression: Common Signs, Symptoms, and Experiences http://www.suite101.com/content/college-students-and-depression-a18745#ixzz1BVMQsAWR

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Start The New Year Off Right: Academically

By Emily Roberts MA, LPC

We generally take the last few weeks of August to help our kids get prepared to go back to school, why not now?  January is the start of a new year, and it can be for your child too. Before the fall semester we buy them supplies, help them organize, and change the topic of conversation from summer fun, to school expectations.  Now is the time to re-evaluate our expectations, implement new routines, and help our students have a successful second semester.  Here are some helpful suggestions:

1.  Discuss your expectations.   The saying “just do your best” is no longer an acceptable way to tell your child what you require from them academically.   This statement sends mixed messages, making your child unsure what it will take to make you proud.  The reality is that children do not want to disappoint their parents, even if they sometimes act as if they do.  Help your child create his own reasonable expectations for himself, ask him what his goals are for each class.  After you have listened and thought about what his expectations are, come up with your expectations and see if they coincide.   When it is the child’s plan rather than your demands, they become much more invested, and real changes will occur.

2.)  Be realistic in your expectations.  If your daughter is a genus in math, but has consistently struggled in Language Arts, it may not be realistic to expect all A’s.  As parents, we want our children to be the best and brightest, but it is critical to evaluate how realistic our expectations are.  Recent studies show that setting the bar too high often leads to low self-esteem, depression, and other mental disorders.  When expectations are set at a level where the child feels they can be successful, they are motivated to work towards it, achieve it, and often surpass that goal.  When they feel that it is impossible to meet your expectations, the fear of failure often inhibits their effort. We often hear, “Well I knew I wasn’t going to make an A so I just gave up.”  This is due to the despair created by setting the bar too high.

3.)  Use genuine compliments. When reflecting on the past  semester and current academics, make sure to focus on the positive, without too much emphasis on the negative. It isn’t enough to tell your child “good job”.  While this is meant as a compliment, students often tell us that it is “generic” or what parents “are supposed to say.”  Instead, focus on praising their effort, creativity, or something that was previously challenging.  Praise the process (paying attention more in school) rather than the product (the B+). Telling them “I’m so impressed with the hard work you put into that project, you are so creative.”  is far more meaningful because you are explaining why you are proud of them.  This type of praise sticks with your child, unlike generic complements.

4.)  Use this semester to get to know your child better. Initiate conversations with your child to learn more about them.  Ask about their goals for the year, for the next five years, or even their lifetime aspirations. Ask them about new interests, current trends, or something you saw on T.V., things they may know more about than you (this lets them feel in control and will often get them to open up). Keep these conversations to an age appropriate level. A good place to try this out is in the car. Use a song on the radio or a recent news story to ask their opinion, and then LISTEN; try hard not to judge them on what their saying.  More often than not, you will find this technique will lead to deeper, more meaningful conversations.

5.) Avoid “Yes, but….” phrases.Comments like: “Good job in English, but I bet if you would have studied more you would have made an A.” or “If you just had the study habits of your brother, then you would get better grades,” send the wrong message. While your intention may be to motivate your child to work harder and aspire toward greater achievement, comparisons rarely have this desired effect.  Children will often withdraw and feel as though they are not good enough to make you proud until they can be like others, which may never happen. When their self-esteem is compromised by feeling inadequate, their grades will often suffer and their effort and focus generally decreases.  Make the basis of the conversation about what they need to improve on, rather that alluding to the success of someone else or what your child hasn’t achieved.  When having this conversation, make sure to point out what makes them unique in your eyes. 

Implementing all of these strategies at once can be a bit overwhelming.  Focus on the dialogue that you feel will be most beneficial for your child first, then once you are comfortable, continue to integrate new strategies.  When children of any age feel that they have a voice and are being listened to, they generally are happier and more communicative with their parents.  This leads to a lifetime of better conversations and a better relationship with your child.

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