Monday, June 22, 2009

Does My Child or Teenager Need Therapy?

For parents, it’s often tough to know when your child needs outside help. There are so many questions: Is it just a phase? Is it normal for his or her age? Am I overreacting? Children and teens can have emotional, academic, or behavioral problems of all kinds and the research says that many people who need help never receive it. It will always be a judgment call, but here are four guidelines to help you know if you should seek counseling for your child or teenager:

1. The problem negatively affects your child’s functioning in school, home, or the community.

2. The problem is causing you or your child significant distress.

3. The problem has not gone away with other efforts, such as changes in parenting strategies, consequences, etc.

4. If the problem does not improve, there is the potential that it could cause negative effects now or later in life, such as academic failure, relationship problems, addiction, and so on.

Also, it’s usually wise to listen to your child if he or she requests outside help. If you read these guidelines and you are still not sure, it may be a good idea to schedule a one-time consultation with a therapist to see if counseling might be indicated. In a later post, we’ll give some guidelines for selecting a good therapist for your child.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Big Smilers Stay Married More Often

Researchers from DePaw University found that how much people smile in old yearbook photographs predicts how likely they are to stay married. The first study looked at old college yearbook photos and rated smile intensity from 1-10. The scoring was based on the strength of the muscles that pull up on the mouth and that create wrinkles around the eyes.

The researchers found that none of the people in the top 10 of smile strength had divorced, while 4 in 10 of those in the bottom 10% of smile strength had a marriage that ended.

They did a second study where they asked people over the age of 65 to show pictures from their childhood. The average age in the pictures was 10 years old. Again, the researchers found that only 11% of the biggest smilers had divorced, while 31% of the frowners had ended at least one marriage.

Why would this be? Matthew Hertenstein, a psychologist who led the study proposes several possible explanations:

• It could be that smiling represents a “positive disposition towards life.”

• Perhaps smiling people attract other happy people and two happier people are more likely to have a long-lasting marriage.

• Maybe people who smile more often attract more friends and a larger support network that makes it more likely they will keep a marriage healthier.

• Or maybe it’s just that people who smile for a picture when they are told to say “cheese” have more compliant personalities that might make marriage easier.

Whatever the reason, if you are planning to get married, you might want to see some old childhood photos before you buy the ring!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Keep Your Minds Sharp This Summer And Still Have Fun

Summertime is a fun time of the year, always full of family vacations, visits to the pool, and barbeques, but the fun-packed season makes it easy to neglect important mental activity, which is crucial for children in order to maintain the school year’s learning. 

According to a recent article appearing in the Miami Herald, research has shown that when there is no academic continuation, children tend to lose an average of 2.6 months of recently learned mathematical knowledge and even one year’s worth of reading skill. 

This potential loss of academic knowledge does not mean that children must hit the text books all summer simply to maintain all the information they learned in the previous year. Author Debbie Mandel notes that learning over the summer needs to be fun as well as educational: “Children need to have fun over the summer and relax because they are overscheduled and face a great deal of academic, social and extracurricular pressure,” she told the Herald.  

So what are some good ways to exercise your child’s mind over the summer without causing unnecessary stress? Researchers suggest a few teaching opportunities that can encourage summer learning in fun and creative ways:

• Teach your child how to bake cookies, while illustrating how to make the proper measurements of ingredients.

• Encourage your child to help plan a family trip - Allow him or her to estimate the mileage of the journey or outline a map of the cities your family might drive through or flying over.

• Allow your child to pick out a fun book to read, in addition to assigned summer readings.

• Your family can visit museums, zoos, aquariums, etc. to learn about history and nature.

• If your child enjoys baseball, encourage him or her to record the statistics of a team. This can include calculating ERA and RBI percentages.

• For younger children, buy beads for them to make a necklace or a key chain with. This activity encourages counting and pattern-making skills.  

You can make the summer fun and interesting for your children, while still helping them keep their minds sharp.  So bake some cookies, plan a trip, visit the zoo, or buy some beads--and have a great time.

Written by: Emma Kate Wright, Matthew Laxer, and Mara Ivey

(Source: The Miami Herald – May 23, 2009 “Combine fun, learning to keep kids’ minds active during summer”)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Top Ten Warning Signs of Teen Drug Abuse

Some parents are shocked to learn that their teen is using drugs.  Short of catching them using, there is no guaranteed way to know, but here are some signs that often point to drug abuse:

1.  Hanging out with sketchy friends - especially friends who have a reputation for being drug users.  It's hard to be close friends with drug users and not use yourself.

2.  Paraphernalia - it would be rare to find paraphernalia (pipe, bong, rolling papers, scales, etc.) without any personal drug use.

3.  Fascination with drugs - online searches, conversation, excessive interest in drug-themed movies all are often associated with personal use..

4.  Declines in school performance and general motivation - especially when the drop in grades is not characteristic of past performance; especially true when it can't be explained by some other reason.

5.  Physical signs - red eyes, physical disorientation, smelling like smoke or unusual odors.

6.  Attempts to cover tracks - Visine, Niacin, drinking excessive amounts of water, locked boxes and compartments, and so on.

7.  Secretiveness and dishonesty - not being forthcoming about where they were, who they were with; outright lying when asked direct questions, especially about where they were, who they were with, what they were doing.

8.  Funny money - having unexplained cash, going through cash quicker than expected, family members missing cash, etc.

9.  Mood swings - more than normal adolescent mood changes.

10. Weird sleep - sleeping too much, up all night, especially if it is a different pattern than in the past.

Even though these are some of the top indicators, it is still possible for your teen to be using substances without showing many of these signs.  On the other hand, just because he or she may be showing some of these symptoms, it doesn't mean your child is definitely using drugs.  If you are not sure, it may be a good idea to seek some consultation.