- Acknowledge that it is difficult (and that is ok!). In our culture we often pride ourselves on being independent and strong. When change occurs we often say “I’m fine” to others and tell ourselves “I shouldn’t be upset about this”. Transitions whether good or bad come with a loss attached. Losing parts of our lives is painful regardless of the situation and has grief attached.
- Share your story. As humans we need to connect with others. We need to be seen and heard. After a loss you need to tell others your story. Tell someone you trust about the changes you are going through. Tell them a story about your lost loved one. Share what you miss or are anticipating missing. You might realize that you aren’t alone in your struggle.
- Find a solid ground. In the midst of change it can feel like you are trying to stand on top of a trampoline. The ground is shaky and you forget what can hold you up. Take time to find places that are solid in your life. Acknowledge the things that have not and will not change in your world and celebrate the good in those people/ things.
- Take gentle, prepared steps. Once you’ve found some places that are solid, prepare yourself for the road ahead. Push back the part of you that wants to run ahead and give yourself time to think about where you want to step next. It will take time to shift gears slowly but taking that time is vital to accepting the changes in your life so that you can go forward without regrets.
- Encourage their efforts. Rather than just saying “good job” or “well done” when your child comes home with a good grade, focus on the process instead. Notice the effort they make when doing their homework or studying for a test. Try saying “You’re working really hard right now” when they are doing their homework or “you know a lot about this topic” when you are helping them study. Focusing on the process and the details of the work they are doing will really boost their confidence.
- Make time for play breaks. Play is such a natural state for kids to be in. It’s engaging, rejuvenating, and comforting for them. Children need this time worked into their day so that they have the energy and fortitude to handle the stress that inevitably comes from school (especially around times of testing). We need to nurture this play time as well as intelligence. Play gives children the chance to practice what they are learning.
- Rest and a good diet are paramount for a child’s success. In the weeks leading up to the Georgia Milestone tests, make sure your children are routinely getting a good night’s sleep and eating healthy. Make it a habit now so that it’s effective later.
- Be patient and mindful of what stress looks like in children. Increased moodiness, defiance, and difficulty sleeping can all be signs of heightened stress in children. Children are often unable to tell us what’s bothering them but they can always show us. Behaviors are the symptom not the problem. Therefore, when your child is acting up more than usual, ask yourself “what is my child trying to tell me?” before jumping to discipline.
- Remind your child that a little anxiety is normal. Everybody worries sometimes. Worry can even be beneficial in the right amounts. A healthy amount of worry motivates us to prepare, helps us focus on doing our best, and even makes us more alert during stressful situations.
In the end, all kids survive the testing process. However, while we as adults know this, a child often sees testing as a big bad wolf out to get them. Validate their fears and encourage the efforts they’ve been making all year long. Hear them, validate them, love them, and just be there for them. Each time your child conquers the stress they are under, they set themselves up to conquer the next one. Good luck to all!!! Below are a few more resources to help you and your child conquer the big bad wolf.
“Sitting Still Like a Frog” by Eline Snel
“What to do when you Worry too much” by Dawn Huebner
“Freeing your child from Anxiety” by Tamar Chansky
1. Create rules, but don’t be a dictator
It’s important that teens have structure in their life. This encourages them to keep schedules and learn boundaries. But – don’t dictate their every move. Teens need to learn to make their own decisions and set their own boundaries as well. Being overly authoritative shuts down independence and confidence!
2. Celebrate them when they try something new
Rewarding your teen with praise for trying something new is the best way to encourage the behavior in the future. He or she will feel acknowledged and proud for stepping outside of their comfort zone – this is where success happens!
3. Express confidence instead of worry
Telling your teen that you’re worried about them gives him or her more reason to doubt them self. Express confidence and use encouragement instead.
4. Turn mistakes into “teaching” moments
Rather than criticizing or scolding your teen for a mistake, sit down with him or her and discuss what happened. Help them talk through the mistakes and problem-solve for the future.
5. Encourage effort, do not criticize attempts
If your teen is trying a new task or practicing skills, it is more helpful to encourage him or her and point out the good in what they are doing rather than pointing out mistakes. This teaches him or her to focus on positive things or negative things and increases confidence.
6. Do not create exceptions for your child
Create rules, boundaries, and guidelines for your teen. Then, enforce consequences when rules are broken and only reward behavior when necessary. Consequences teach your teen that they are not above established rules and boundaries. Making exceptions for him or her teaches feelings of entitlement and encourages the idea that they don’t have to work hard for what they want and/or that rules don’t apply to them.
If your teenager needs someone to talk to please call the Summit Counseling Center to make an appointment with one of the licensed School-based Therapists located in Alpharetta, Centennial, Chattahoochee, Johns Creek, Milton, and Northview high school at 678-893-5300!
- Plan ahead! As challenging as this may be, the earlier you start, the easier it will be. And yes, I realize that plans change, everyone has an opinion or a conflict, and some things are just out of your control. However, some things are in your control. Start there and focus on what you know you can set in stone. Some is better than none.
- Be Flexible. This may seem contradictory to the first point but it’s all about finding that balance.
- Honor old and new traditions. If this is your first year as a blended family, come up with some new family traditions to celebrate your new family. However, don’t completely disregard the old ones either. You’re step-children may be really attached to having that specific french toast recipe every Christmas morning. Make it! But throw in your traditional breakfast casserole as well. Your blended family may be new but the old family ties still exist.
- Allow your children to enjoy both of their homes and families during the holidays. Being apart from your kids at Christmas can be heartbreaking. You miss seeing their faces light up on Christmas morning and you wonder what they are up to. However, you still need to be excited for them to be with their other parent. Focus on making your time with them as special as possible and allow your ex-spouse to do the same.
- Be sensitive to a child’s sadness and sense of lose. No matter how long it’s been, children may still struggle with being separated from parents during the holidays. It’s a yearly reminder that mom and dad aren’t married anymore. Acknowledge and validate those feelings when they arise. If you are the step-parent in this situation, be sensitive to increased emotionality or behavior problems. Recognize that it’s not about you. Kiddo is just sad right now.
- Don’t make gift giving/getting a competition. Treat biological children and step children equally (this includes you grandparents!) Work together with your ex-spouse to avoid duplicating gifts and remember to focus on what makes your children happy and not what makes your ex angry.
- Keep some routines in place even amongst the chaos. Children thrive with consistency. However, the holiday season is full of so many extra commitments that staying consistent feels impossible. So do what you can. Commit to at least one family dinner per week. If school is still in session, stick to the bedtime ritual as closely as possible. Even if school is out, try to have some kind of a bedtime routine that starts around the same time.
Change is never easy. While some of us cope with it better than others, being a part of a blended family means making sacrifices and compromises. The first year is always the most challenging but it’s also incredibly special and exciting. In the end, it’s totally worth it. So, take that extra dose of patience when you wake up in the morning and make a lot of wonderful memories this year. Merry Christmas!
DBT involves 3 modules which continuously run throughout the year and are led by an intensively trained DBT Therapist. The modules are: Emotion Regulation, Distress Tolerance, and Interpersonal Effectiveness. So what will you learn and how do the modules help?
- In Emotion Regulation, individuals learn how to manage the intensity of their emotions and decide whether reactions, feelings, and behaviors are effective in their life. For example, a student might become overwhelmed and stressed at school and decide to skip class. DBT can help that student learn to manage their feelings and react to their stress in a way that does not negatively impact their life.
- In the Distress Tolerance module, individuals learn to increase their tolerance for negative emotions. For example, if a student has a panic attack before tests or before presentations, DBT would be helpful in teaching the student to soothe themselves and tolerate the anxiety without having a panic attack.
- Lastly, the Interpersonal Effectiveness module teaches skills to help individuals get along better with other people. Sometimes individuals need assistance learning to connect with other people, how to compromise, how to be interested in others, how to have effective conflict that doesn’t end relationships, how to end unhealthy relationships, and how to tell the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship. For example, there might be a student who struggles making friends or maintaining friendships. DBT can help that student learn skills to connect with people and create genuine, lasting relationships.
While individual counseling with an intensively trained DBT therapist in combination with the DBT skills modules is strongly encouraged, it is not required. The Summit DBT therapists also enjoy collaborating with outside therapist to help provide the best treatment possible for all clients. If you’d like to make an appointment with one of the intensively trained DBT therapists or register for classes starting in January, please call the Summit at 678-893-5300 or visit our website at www.summitcounseling.org!
Finding out that your teenager is struggling with depression can feel like you were hit over the head by a ton a bricks. You feel confused, sad, and scared. A lot of parents feel unsure of what to do next or how to be supportive. Though this can feel like an overwhelming obstacle, there are things you can do to help.
1. Listen. Be open to hearing what your teen has to share with you. Validate their feelings. At times depression can make us feel or think in ways that appear irrational. Trying to tell your teen that things will be fine or they need to get over it can actually make them feel ignored and misunderstood instead of comforted. A lot of times our need to try to fix things as quickly as possible is actually based in our own anxiety. Take a deep breathe and try to be patient with your teen (and yourself).
2. Encourage your teen to engage with others. Depression can make teens feel isolated and disconnected. You might notice them withdrawing from friends or other activities they use to enjoy. If you see that happening, suggest other activities they can get involved in.
3. Prioritize health. Depression can cause people to either get too much or not enough sleep. Try to gently encourage regular sleep. In addition, physical activity is a great way to combat depression. Taking teens away from the screens and going outside for a walk can be really impactful. Yoga has been shown to be especially effective for helping teens who are struggling with depression as a way of being more mindful and integrated with their bodies.
4. Find professional help. You don’t have to do this alone! Therapists are licensed to treat depression and research has shown that depression is very treatable with the right treatment. We are all here to help and are passionate about providing support for teens who are struggling.
For more information or to make an appointment with one of our therapists visit our website at summitcounseling.org
New initiative to reduce stigma and increase help-seeking in the community
Johns Creek, GA. – October 27, 2016 – Summit Counseling Center in partnership with the Will To Live Foundation, today announced that it unveiled a mental health kiosk in North Fulton county. The kiosk is part of the Summit’s Check-Up from the Neck Up campaign to raise awareness for mood disorders, such as depression and allows individuals to connect with appropriate treatment resources. Individuals are encouraged to take an anonymous online screening at Screening.MentalHealthScreening.org/Summit to check in on their mental health.
Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year. One of the leading deterrents for seeking treatment is stigma. MindKare® Mental Health Kiosks are designed for use in public spaces and aim to reduce stigma by making screening for treatable conditions like depression or anxiety as commonplace as blood pressure screening.
“This initiative aligns with the county’s vision of improving the health and well-being of all residents”, said County Commissioner, Bob Ellis. “The kiosk will help reach people who may not have traditionally sought help for mental health or substance abuse.”
The kiosks are freestanding stations that offer a quick, anonymous way for individuals to check in on their behavioral health by providing users with:
- Online self-assessments for common mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and substance use
- Information on whether their assessment is consistent with a common mental or behavioral health disorder
- An overview of the signs and symptoms of treatable behavioral health disorders
- Educational information and resources for quality, local treatment options
“We have embraced the concept of anonymous online screenings as a solid behavioral health intervention. The MindKare® program will help us expand our reach in the community”, said David Smith, Executive Director at the Summit Counseling Center. “Taking a public health approach to behavioral health can help prevent the onset of common mental health disorders, as well as lead people to treatment and community resources earlier on.”
Not only will the kiosk be available at events sponsored by the Summit Counseling Center, it is also available to be used by other organizations within the community to help raise awareness and remove the stigma surrounding mental health.
Over the past two years, Summit Counseling Center and the Will To Live Foundation have partnered with Fulton County Schools to provide therapists on site at six of the North Fulton County high schools. This partnership helps remove barriers (stigma, cost and transportation) that would otherwise prevent students from receiving the help they need. “We are seeing great outcomes from this partnership”, said John Trautwein, Co-founder of the Will To Live Foundation, “and are excited to expand our partnership in the community with this important new initiative.” Last year, while speaking at Screening for Mental Health’s 25th National Screening Day gala in Boston, Mr. Trautwein met Doug Chamberlain, CEO of Appleton Partners, who was in attendance and was inspired to fund the new MindKare® program in North Fulton county. “We are grateful to Mr. Chamberlain for this generous donation and the impact that it will have on our community,” said Mr. Trautwein.
MindKare® kiosks utilize an innovative online screening platform developed by Screening for Mental Health, the pioneer in large-scale mental health screenings for the public. The online screenings are not diagnostic but educational in nature. The screenings consist of a series of questions designed to indicate whether symptoms of a mental health disorder are present. After completing the screening, participants receive immediate confidential feedback and referral information to local resources for further information or treatment. These screenings can be accessed through the kiosk or directly online at Screening.MentalHealthScreening.org/Summit.
About Summit Counseling Center
Summit Counseling Center is a non-profit counseling center located in North Fulton county. Through partnerships with local schools, churches, civic organizations, and other non-profit organizations, the Summit provides awareness, education, and counseling services…with the vision of “A community that is mentally well and stigma free.” Visit our website at SummitCounseling.org to learn more about the Summit and the services that we provide.
About Will To Live Foundation
Will To Live Foundation is dedicated to preventing teen suicide by improving the lives and the “Will To Live” of teenagers everywhere through education about mental health and encouraging them to recognize the love and hope that exists in each other. Visit Will-To-Live.org to learn more about the foundation.
In a nut shell, mindfulness is being consciously present in what you’re doing, while you’re doing it, without analyzing it or judging. In order to manage your mental and emotional state, you simply recognize and acknowledge your emotions and thoughts in each moment-to-moment experience, without judgement. Mindfulness is the opposite of multi-tasking. As life continues to get busier and technology tries to keep you more connected, it may feel counterproductive to slow down and only focus on one thing at a time. However, research shows that practicing mindfulness regularly can actually improve concentration and increase productivity, reduce the symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression, reduce impulsivity, and increase overall happiness. One study even found that students who engaged in a mindfulness meditation before taking an exam actually performed better than students who did not.
Parents: When you notice your child starting to worry about the “what ifs” of getting into college, acknowledge and validate their feelings of worry and doubt. They’ve spent the last 4 years of high school preparing for this, so of course they’re worried about this next step! Then, in a supportive and loving way try to redirect their attention to the “what is” of the situation, meaning what do I actually know for a fact in this very moment? For example, this is a new experience and they don’t know what to expect. What they do know is their GPA and the admission requirements of the school they are applying to. They’re freaking out, and you probably are too! Helping bring their attention back to the present moment will keep their brains from going down the rabbit hole of worry.
1. Re-focus when you’re feeling distracted
Mindfulness can help you reset your focus to work on the task at hand and pay attention to one thing at a time. When you’re focusing on one thing at a time you will be less likely to be lost in thought of focusing on your worries. In our fast paced world, we are so used to multitasking. Try focusing on only one thing at a time. Yes, you heard me! That means putting away your phone when you are having a conversation, watching a TV program, or sending an email!
2. Stay in the present moment
Practicing mindfulness helps you keep your thoughts in the current moment. Try observing your surroundings, describing what’s in your environment, and/or fully participating in an activity of your choice.
3. Let it in and let it go!
Acknowledge the feelings and thoughts you are experiencing that are taking away from the present moment, but don’t cling to them. Allow them to come and go freely. You can imagine that the feelings and thoughts are being washed away by the ocean, floating away down a river, moving by with a cloud, or another image of your choosing. This allows you to have thoughts and feelings without getting stuck or distracted.
4. Practice Non-judgment
When you judge yourself or others you unintentionally create ineffective thoughts and feelings such as feelings of shame or guilt. Instead of labeling experiences as “good” or “bad”, try saying exactly what you mean. What is good to one person may be bad to another. Replace “I did so badly on the test” with “I don’t like my grade on the test” or “I’m awful at relationships” with “I don’t like my behaviors in relationships.” Saying what you mean helps you express yourself, understand yourself, and ultimately identify what you want to change.
If you are having difficulty managing your emotions try incorporating mindfulness into your daily life. You can do this 10 minutes a day by practicing centering prayer, guided imagery, or simply observing your breathing. Mindfulness helps teach us to pause and check in with ourselves in a non-judgmental and accepting way.
Dialectical behavior therapy is a unique treatment that incorporates mindfulness. If you or your loved one are struggling with relationships, regulating emotions, or have difficulty managing distress make an appointment with one of the Summit’s Intensively Trained DBT clinicians – we’re here to help. Make an appointment by calling 678-893-5300 or visiting www.summitcounseling.org!
We’ve all been there, the climax of a power struggle with a child— we know we’re losing (we’re almost always losing), we wonder how we got there and how we can make this stop. Sometimes it starts small, maybe your six year old refuses to take a bath, an hour has gone by and you’ve threatened they can’t watch TV for a month, no toys for a week, they can’t date till they’re 21, and you swear someone has taken over your body because you just heard yourself say something like “BECAUSE” even though your rational self remembers from public speaking class or English 101 that argument has no legs to stand on. This scene probably ends with both you and your child going to your separate rooms, closing the door, and crying. To help avoid escalating a situation into a power struggle with your child, here are 5 questions you can use to assess the situation before it spirals out of control.
1. Is your child safe?
As always, first assess, “Is this an issue of safety?” If the answer is anything close to “No, not really,” then let’s move on.
2. Is this arbitrary?
Once I worked for a company that had someone donate tickets to a pro basketball game for us take our middle grades clients that were attending a summer camp group. We got hooked up with a private suite. At one point a few of the boys stood up to watch the game and a couple of the adults with our group kept yelling “sit down” followed by threats that they wouldn’t be able to participate in future events. These 12 year olds were looking around, confused about why they were in trouble. I, too, was confused. I finally had to speak up and tell these adults they were being irrational. Why can’t these 12 year boys stand up at a basketball game of all places? There was no answer; it was just an arbitrary rule. Sometimes we make rules just to have control or because we have a preference on the way something is done but there isn’t actually negative consequence if these “rules” aren’t followed. If your child doesn’t finish all the broccoli on their plate, will they stop growing? Will children in other countries stop being hungry? No.
My favorite parenting technique to teach is natural consequences. Most often the best way to stop a power struggle before it starts and still have a consequence in place is to let the situation play out. It’s 40 degrees out but your child doesn’t want to wear his jacket to school today because he isn’t cold? You could spend 20 minutes of your morning arguing about the jacket, he can be late to school, you can be late to work, or you could let him be really cold for a day and chances are tomorrow he’ll want to take his jacket. There is also a chance he actually isn’t cold without his jacket and maybe his body responds to temperature differently than yours.
3. Is there an alternative?
I once witnessed a child be punished because an adult was eating dinner at the same time a child was banging keys on a piano. The adult asked the child to please stop because the sound was bothering him. This situation played out very theatrically with lots of crying and screaming. From the child’s point of view he wasn’t doing anything “wrong” and he doesn’t understand why his actions were not okay. In this situation I see 3 alternative solutions: the adult could pick up his plate and move somewhere where the sound was less annoying, the adult could have compromised with the child (also great social skills training) that the child take a break from playing on the piano during dinner time and may play again in 15 minutes, or the adult could have given the child an alternative activity to do with his hands that would still be entertaining but less quiet. Sometimes the real problem is we don’t want to take the 2 minutes to work out the problem so we yell and make threats that the behavior stop now, which consequently usually ends up taking more of our time.
4. Can this wait?
For this one I’m thinking of situations in which it is an important lesson for you to teach your child and you so desperately want them to “get it” in the moment, but maybe this should be a conversation for later. This can be situations like your child hits another child and you want them to apologize, but it escalates into something very theatrical and you can’t convince your 4 year old to act like an adult and apologize. Another example is grandma buys your child a very expensive gift and the child will not say thank you nor give grandma a hug. This could be a situation in which the rules aren’t arbitrary. However, in some cases when you are on the brink of a power struggle, it may be best for you to apologize to the person, remove the child from the environment, talk to the child about kindness, respect, personal space, etc. Sometimes even helping the child act out how to make a situation right can be helpful. “Sarah, when you see Charlotte tomorrow, what can you say to let her know you feel really bad about hitting her today?” “John, what can you say to grandma to let her know you appreciate the gift she gave you?” These are important lessons but maybe the child needs to calm down first and then apologize at a later time. It will probably mean more to the other person when the child is feeling more sincere.
5. Am I reacting to this situation or something else?
As parents you carry a lot of stress. If only your kids could understand that you really need to make this deadline with no distractions because that’s how you keep your job that buys them all the things they need and want. Alas, the human brain doesn’t fully develop until the age of 25 so you’re in for a long ride. The times that can be the easiest to escalate a situation into a power struggle is when you are really stressed and tired. During these times you feel like the easiest thing to do is to bark orders and have your child obey them or else they are grounded from fun for the rest of their lives. Most often what ends up happening here is a power struggle that ends up taking much more of your time and energy than it would to stop and think through your options and come up with a better alterative. Ask yourself am I really that upset their bed isn’t made up or is it all those other stressors that you are unleashing in that moment?
These 5 questions could help you quickly assess if a situation is even a problem, if there is a way to keep things from getting out of control, and could save you from wasting time that could be spent reading an extra bedtime story. However, there are some factors that when applied to these scenarios are not solved as easily. If you are repeatedly having an issue with power struggles in the home then be sure to follow up with a pediatrician or therapist.