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Kathy Marshack News

Never Give Up Hope On Your Estranged Family Relationships

Monday, March 12, 2018


Never give up home on your estranged family relationshipsToday I’m addressing a very, very painful subject…that of family estrangement. We’ve all heard the sayings: “Blood is thicker than water.” “Family comes first.” “No matter what you do, I’ll always love you.” Family is precious. It makes us feel accepted and loved for who you are, without reservation. It’s the mainstay of civilization. When the family unit breaks down, civilizations actually crumble. History proves that, i.e. the Roman Empire.

However, the state of the American family today is not good. Life isn’t like the Norman Rockwell pictures of generations ago. Of course, it wasn’t perfect then, but family cohesiveness is eroding. People aren’t just drifting apart. They are purposely estranging themselves from other family members. A recent NYTimes article addresses this topic. It generated a huge storm of comments; mine included.

There is nothing more emotionally devastating than being estranged from a family member, especially your own child. It can be worse than experiencing their death, because there’s a personal rejecting attached to it. It’s always nagging you in the back of your mind. The hurt never goes away.

The NYTimes article seemed to me to be very one-sided. It focused on children who felt they needed to cut off their “bad” parents. In my personal and professional life, I’ve seen the other side of the coin all too often. I’ve personally felt the heartache of children with emotional and mental disorders who foolishly cut off the very parents who support them. I’ve written in great depth about this phenomenon in my book, WHEN EMPATHY FAILS: How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you.

For example, my autistic daughter cut me off 12 years ago because she was the victim of parental alienation by my ex. Another daughter, alcoholic and suffering from TBI also cut me off right after assaulting me and knocking me into a plate glass door. It’s naive and narrow-minded to write of estrangement from only the estranged child’s point of view. There are lots of factors. But as for me, I have never cut off my children and never will. With each passing year, I hope to hear from them, even though they shred my letters and block my calls.

Some of those commenting on this article say that holding onto hope makes it more painful. I believe that hope keeps us going. Of course, it would be naïve to put your life on hold as you hope. That’s not true hope, that’s fantasizing about an outcome you’re attached to. As I often counsel couples, hope for the best but plan for the worst. That keeps your eyes wide open and in the proactive place of fixing problems before they escalate.

When estrangement occurs, hope, based on agape love, allows you to wish them the best in their lives as you continue to grow and find peace in your own. It’s not about changing them. It’s about your own approach to life, choosing to be positive and happy despite the circumstances. As you move on and continue to give to others, their love and appreciation soothes your hurt emotions. Perhaps somewhere down the road the two lines of estrangement will once again intersect, and you’ll be able to build a new relationship. That is my hope for all those estranged in the world today.

If you’d like to read the first chapter of my book, WHEN EMPATHY FAILS: How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you, please take advantage of this free download. After you read it, I’d love it if you’d visit my Facebook page and tell me what you think.


“I, Tonya” Reminds Us That We Can’t Afford to Ignore Child Abuse

Wednesday, February 07, 2018


“I, Tonya” Reminds Us – We Can’t Afford to Ignore Child AbuseWhy do people do what they do? What makes them tick? As a psychologist, these are questions I often ponder. An award winning movie I saw recently sparked these questions again. It was “I, Tonya,” a true story of a downtrodden girl and woman who had no idea how to handle abuse and it ended tragically.

If you watched the news in 1994, you couldn’t miss the scandal that rocked the Olympic skating world. You may remember how Tonya Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly hired a friend to crush the knee of her rival, Nancy Kerrigan. Sentiment was pretty hot in Oregon at the time, since Tonya was an Oregonian and the disappointment was fierce. So you might not agree with the way everything is portrayed in this movie.


However, I’m looking at this movie as a reminder to show insight and look beyond behaviors and see why people act as they do.

When children are abused and grow up feeling insecure, unloved and unwanted it will change the way they live. Here’s an excerpt from Tonya’s New York Times interview:

“People don’t understand that what you guys see in the movie is nothing,” she said. “That was the smallest little bits and pieces. I mean, my face was bruised. My face was put through a mirror, not just broken onto it. Through it. I was shot. That was true.” Mr. Gillooly shot at the ground, she said, and it ricocheted onto her face. (He has denied this and other abuse.) She said her mother threw a knife at her. (Her mother has also denied allegations made by Ms. Harding.) But “that’s all true,” she said.

Whether her entire story is true or not, what is true is that child abuse is all too common. According to Child Welfare League of America 2016 Oregon State Fact Sheet during October 2015-September 2016:

  • “76,668 reports of abuse and neglect were received. 
  • 38,086 of these reports were referred for investigation.
  • 37,320 investigations were completed, which includes reports that were referred in the previous year.
  • Of all completed investigations, 7,677 were founded for abuse or neglect and involved 11,843 victims. 
  • Of all victims, 46.3 percent were younger than 6 years old.
  • Of all types of maltreatment incidences, neglect was the most frequently identified type of maltreatment (42.9 percent), followed by threat of harm (40.7 percent).”

I’m not advocating that victims of abuse should be excused from their bad or criminal behavior. However, if we want to stop the behavior, we must break the cycle of abuse. If we see evidence of abuse we must speak up.

In January, we saw the shocking account of the Californian couple who beat, shackled and severely malnourished their children to the point that the 29-year-old daughter weighs just 82 pounds. When asked, neighbors reported that they thought something odd was going on, but they did nothing about it.

A man who attended third grade with one of the girls wrote on Facebook: “I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame. Of course, none of us are responsible for the events that ensued, but you can’t help but feel rotten when the classmate your peers made fun of for ‘smelling like poop’ quite literally had to sit in her own waste because she was chained to her bed, It is nothing but sobering to know that the person who sat across from you at the lunch table went home to squalor and filth while you went home to a warm meal and a bedtime story.”

Rather than passing judgment on people you meet, take the time to get to know them better and gain insight into why they behave as they do. It may be the first time anyone has every bothered, and your kindness could be a turning point for the better. In fact stepping up to confront child abuse isn’t always so difficult, even though it requires courage. Don’t blame; offer help.

It sickens me when the ones who are out to get you are the ones who should care the most about you. That’s one of the reasons I wrote my book, When Empathy Fails – How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you. The first chapter, “No One Calls Me Mom Anymore” is now available for free download. After you read it, I’d love it if you’d visit my Facebook page and tell me what you think.

Preparing the Next Generation to Take a Stand Against Corruption

Monday, January 15, 2018


Young people are upset and confused by how deep corruption, greed and abuse of power runs in our society so we need to help this next generation create a world where there is no #MeToo.Have you had a conversation with a young person about what we see going on in the news today? Are they concerned or bewildered when they see how deep corruption, greed, and abuse of power runs in our society? If you’re a parent, a teacher, a grandparent, or mentor to the next generation, you want to give careful thought about the message you’re passing on to them.

Isn’t it true that we tend to think of ethics, and a sense of justice, as inbred qualities every person has from birth? And yes, we are born with a conscience and a sense of fairness. But ethics and justice go deeper than that. For one thing, true ethics and social justice go beyond standing up for your own self. Ideally, they lead to standing up in defense of others. A deep sense of justice should motivate you to defend those who don’t have the ability or the opportunity to defend themselves. It takes real courage to stand up against a flawed institution.

Think about the #MeToo movement. There are many brave women who have stood up and come forward to reveal their experiences with abuse of power. But an equal number, if not more, of men and women who have not personally experienced abuse, have chosen to stand up right alongside them, helping lend strength to their voice. There are situations where one woman has become the public face amidst a sea of anonymous accusers, giving more credibility to the accusations.

Why is this culture of abuse and sexual harassment so prevalent in the first place? Because for years, sexual harassment was viewed as “normal.” Almost every woman has experienced some sort of unwanted sexual advances. It has gotten to the point where many women consider it a part of starting and advancing in their career. And many men come up in universities and corporations being led to believe that with power and prestige come the freedom to do whatever they want.

The issue of ethics and social justice are taught skills and qualities. Most young people haven’t yet been exposed to the corruption that is possible with unlimited power, money, and other resources. They have no experience dealing with these issues. It is our job as parents, educators and mentors to prepare them for what lies ahead in their careers and lives.

How can we help the next generation to create a world where there is no #MeToo? 
  • Create and enforce boundaries. It is absolutely vital that children learn to establish and enforce personal boundaries. They must learn that no matter how much power or influence the person asking has, they have the right to control what they do and allow others to do to them. Children must learn to stand up for themselves, even in the face of powerful people. Also teach them to respect other people’s physical and emotional boundaries.
  • Discuss and deconstruct gender roles and biases. There is nothing wrong with boys playing with trucks and girls dressing up like a princess. But make sure your kids know that they don’t have to fit into a certain box based on their gender. They can’t expect other kids to act a certain way or prefer certain things based on their gender, either.
  • Engage young people in meaningful discussions. Sexual harassment sadly begins early. Students experience it, and those who don’t, will hear about it on the news and through social media. Educators should engage their classes in conversations on the topic. Ask students questions, let them express themselves. This helps young people see that sexual harassment is not a taboo subject. It is something that can and should be discussed openly.
  • Teach young people to be each other’s allies, not just bystanders. Help the children in your life learn how to act as allies and support their peers when they see something. Teach them “ally behavior” – supporting the victim by saying something in the moment to try to stop the situation or telling a trusted adult about what happened.
  • Show them they are not alone. It is well known that someone is more willing to report a crime or challenge authority, if at least one other person joins her. So communicate with your children and make sure they know they have someone in their corner. School administrators and counsellors can create a culture in which students feel comfortable reporting problems by being approachable and showing empathy when students come forward. 
Could you use some help engaging your children in discussions about sexual harassment and helping them navigate through this tumultuous world? Or perhaps you’re coming to terms with experience that in hindsight feels like abuse? Contact my office in Jantzen Beach to schedule an appointment. With the pressures and time constraints of work and school, you may want to advantage of my online therapy option.

Make sure to sign-up for my newsletter to kept updated on the release of my newest book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS: How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you.” If you’ve felt powerless in the face of abuse by someone with severe Empathy Dysfunction and are ready to take back your power, please grab a copy as soon as it’s available.

How Smartphones May Be Endangering Your Teen

Monday, December 11, 2017


Smartphones are changing the way adolescents communicate and spend their time, so parents need to know how smartphones endanger pre-teens to young adults. Smartphones are profoundly changing the way adolescents communicate and spend their time. As a parent, you hear some experts say it’s too soon to be alarmed, while others recommend restricting smartphone usage based on their understanding of childhood emotional and developmental vulnerabilities.

The conflicting information can be confusing. To help you make an informed decision, I’ve collected interesting findings from recent studies.

Cyber bullying. The 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Study (of high-school students) found that “19.6% had been bullied on school property in the previous 12 months, and 14.8% had been electronically bullied.”

Smartphone addiction. Nomophobia (NO MObile PHOne phoBIA) is a 21st-century term for the fear of not being able to use your cell phone or other smart device. (Take an online quiz to see if your child has it.) One National Center for Biotechnology Information study identifies 4 features of smartphone addiction: compulsion, functional impairment, tolerance, and withdrawal.

Wasted time. Roberts, Yaya and Manolis (2014) found that college students spent almost nine hours daily on their cell-phones. Those are hours spent that can never be recovered. Were they spent wisely? You decide.

Injuries and death. A 2010 study by the Pew Research Center said nearly one in three 16- or 17-year-olds said they have texted while driving. According to Pew, fifty-nine percent of people between the ages of 18 and 33 reported texting while driving. In midtown Manhattan, 42% of pedestrians who walked through a "Don't Walk" signal were distracted by an electronic device. A 2013 study found a tenfold increase in injuries related to pedestrians using cell phones from 2005 to 2010.

Mental health and sleep disorders. Another NCBI study indicates that depression, anxiety, and sleep quality is associated with smartphone overuse.

Behavioral and personality shifts. Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and author of iGen, explains how today’s super-connected teens are less happy and less prepared for adulthood. They are “different from all previous generations in how they spend their time, how they behave, and in their attitudes toward religion, sexuality, and politics. They socialize in completely new ways, reject once sacred social taboos, and want different things from their lives and careers. More than previous generations, they are obsessed with safety, focused on tolerance, and have no patience for inequality. iGen is also growing up more slowly than previous generations: eighteen-year-olds look and act like fifteen-year-olds used to.”

Psychosocial and cognitive impact. Some research links media multitasking—texting, using social media and rapidly switching among smartphone-based apps—with lower gray-matter volume in the brain’s anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). This is the region involved in emotion processing and decision-making. Researchers from Korea University in Seoul, used brain imaging to study the brains of 19 teenage boys who were diagnosed with internet or smartphone addiction. Compared with non-addicted teenagers, their brains had significantly higher levels of GABA than levels of glutamate-glutamine, a neurotransmitter that energizes brain signals. GABA is a neurotransmitter that slows down the neurons. This results in poorer attention and control, so you’re more vulnerable to distractions.

Security issues. A 2012 Pew Research Center survey reports that 6% of teens 12-17 use the services to share their location. Their 2016 survey found that 28% of U.S. smartphone owners say they do not use a screen lock or other features to secure their phone. Although a majority of smartphone users say they update their phone’s apps or operating system, around four-in-ten say they only update when it’s convenient for them. And 14% say they never update their phone’s operating system, while 10% say they don’t update the apps on their phone.

You, as the parent, are in the best position to determine if your child is mature enough to properly use a smartphone. If your child is personality type A experiencing high stress levels and low mood, he or she is highly susceptible to smartphone addiction. Positive stress coping mechanisms and mood management techniques can be very beneficial for helping your child overcome this addiction. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

Learn more on my website: Smartphones Damage Relationships.

Parents - How Do You Know When Your Teen is Depressed?

Monday, October 09, 2017


1 in 5 teenagers will suffer from depression, so it is vital for parents to stay alert to these signs of depression in their teensDo you have a moody teen at home? With all the pressures and changes teens face as they grow up, it is expected that they will experience intense feelings of frustration, anger, or sadness from time to time. This is a normal part of growing up.

Sometimes, though, their anger or sadness are signs of a bigger problem – depression. While no one wants their child to have to deal with something severe like depression, it is estimated that 1 in 5 teens will suffer from depression at some point during their teen years. It’s so important for parents to stay alert to signs that their teen could be dealing with it.

How do you know if your teen is depressed? These are some common signs:

  • Irritability, anger, or hostility

  • Sadness, hopelessness, or discouragement

  • Frequent crying

  • Negative thinking and highly critical of self and others

  • Withdrawal from family and friends

  • Loss of interest

  • Poor performance in school

  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits

  • Fatigue or lack of energy

  • Lack of enthusiasm and motivation

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Unexplained aches and pains

It can be hard for parents and other adults to know when a child is depressed. An irritable or angry mood might seem like a bad attitude or disrespect. Low energy and lack of interest might look like not trying. Parents may not realize that these can be signs of depression.

Depression also tends to look different in teens than it does in adults. Irritability is usually the predominant mood in depressed teens, as opposed to sadness with adults. They are also very likely to complain of unexplained pains like a headache or stomachache. Adults will often isolate themselves completely if they are suffering from depression. Teens are more likely to isolate themselves from their parents, but still maintain some of their friendships.

If you see some of these signs in your teen, but are unsure if they really signal depression, think about how long the symptoms have been happening, how severe they are, and how different your teen is acting from his usual self. Continuous unhappiness or irritability, for weeks or months, it is definitely not normal, and should be addressed.

The good news is that depression can get better with the right attention and care. Here are some steps to take if you think your child might be depressed:

  • Talk with your child about depression and their moods. Teens might ignore, hide, or deny how they feel. They might not realize they’re depressed. Even if they act like they don’t want help, talk with them anyway. Listen without judgement. Offer your support. Show them and tell them that they are loved and needed.

  • Schedule a visit to your teen’s doctor. The doctor will probably do a complete physical exam. A full exam lets the doctor check your child for other health conditions that could cause depression-like symptoms.

  • Contact a mental health specialist. A therapist can evaluate your child and recommend treatment. Parental counselling could be part of the treatment, too. It focuses on ways parents can best support and respond to a teen dealing with depression.

As an experienced family therapist, I can help you and your teen get through this difficult time. Please contact my office to set up an appointment. I have an office in Jantzen Beach where we could talk in person. I also offer online therapy if it is more convenient for you.

How Adverse Childhood Experiences May Be Affecting Your Health Today

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


How Adverse Childhood Experiences May Be Affecting Your Health TodayHas your physician ever asked you if there was a childhood trauma or stressors that might be contributing to the extreme level of inflammation you’re experiencing today? If not, they should be according to authorities on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE).

Yale researchers discovered that when inflammatory stress hormones flood a child’s body and brain, they alter the genes that control stress reactivity and re-sets the stress response to “high” for that person’s entire lifetime! This increases the risk of inflammation and diseases such as cancer, heart disease, irritable bowel disease, migraines, and autoimmune diseases.

They’re not alone in their conclusions. A 1996 Kaiser Permanente-CDC Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study) links childhood stress to adult illness. In fact, over 1500 peer-reviewed studies have replicated these findings.

You can read an informative article by Donna Jackson Nakazawain about how ACE contributed to her own health crisis. Here are some highlights from the article…

Two-thirds of Americans report experiencing Adverse Childhood Experiences. People who’d experienced four types of ACE are twice as likely to be diagnosed with cancer and depression as adults. Women who experienced three types of ACE have a sixty percent greater risk of being hospitalized with an autoimmune disease. Suffering six types of ACE may shortened one’s lifespan by twenty years.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) can include:

  • sexual abuse,
  • physical abuse,
  • witnessing physical abuse of parent or guardian,
  • suffering from economic hardship,
  • divorce or separation of parents or guardians,
  • depressed, mentally ill, or suicidal parent or guardian,
  • parent(s) or guardian who abuse alcohol or have a drug addiction,
  • death of parent or guardian,
  • imprisonment of parent or guardian,
  • witnessing or experiencing neighborhood violence,
  • and even being the brunt of belittling parent(s).

The Kaiser Permanente ACE Study showed that the type of trauma doesn’t matter as much as the number of types of different trauma experienced. When physicians acknowledged and validate their patients’ childhood trauma, they can help them begin the healing process mentally and physically. I’m so pleased that some medical schools are finally training students to recognize the link between ACE and adult disease.

If you suspect that Adverse Childhood Experiences are making you sick, please speak with your physician as soon as possible. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and you’d like to learn how a holistic approach can help you heal, please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. If it’s more convenient, I also offer online therapy.

Read more on my website: Holistic Health.

Guidelines to Help Your Children Adapt to Change

Monday, August 21, 2017


Mother talking to her daughterOne of the best parts of life is change. One of the worst parts of life is change. How is that? As exciting as change can be, it can also be daunting, even frightening. Even a person who generally adapts well to change will experience apprehension about some of life’s changes at some point.

If we experience fear of change sometimes, what about our children?

Their lives are in a constant state of change. Just think about the physical changes they go through from infancy to adulthood. They’re also processing enormous amounts of new information and learning at a rapid pace. As a parent, you no doubt work hard to build in your children the resilience they will need to cope with these changes.

There are bigger changes that our children must adapt to. What about the loss of a parent or grandparent? Divorce? A parent remarrying? How can you help your children adapt to changes of this magnitude?

As a child, your son or daughter depends on you to help them make sense of major changes in their life. You must take the time to help them understand what is going on and adjust. The guiding principle here is to slow down and communicate.

Here are some key communication guidelines for parents:

Like all people, children need to know they are loved and cared for. It is also important for them to believe that someone needs and relies on them. They want to know their existence and presence makes a difference to other people. Listen to your children and support them. As kids navigate new situations and inevitable disappointments, they need to know that they’re not alone. Cultivate a warm, strong relationship.


Talk to them openly about what is happening, and give them opportunities to tell you how they feel, without criticism. Regardless of how you feel about the changes and how you are ready to proceed, you need to know what your child is thinking and feeling.


Be in tune with how each child is dealing with the changes in their life. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to children. Each child is unique and has different strengths and weaknesses. Some can handle more than others. This means spending time with each of your children individually and allowing them to share their own feelings on the matter, separate from the rest of the family.


A key part of developing resilience and dealing with change is emotional management. Teach your kids that emotions are okay! It’s okay to feel. And it’s okay to feel differently than their parents about a situation. They need to know that what they share will be respected and safe.


Answer your child’s questions. Some of them may be painful. You may think your child isn’t old enough to understand. But honesty is vital when helping your children adapt to big changes in their lives. If they can’t get a straight answer from you, who can they turn to?


Be honest about your mistakes. Some big changes come because of mistakes made. Making mistakes is a part of life. Life is about learning something new every day. Sometimes those lessons cause pain, or even permanent scars. It is natural to not want your children to see those mistakes or experience any of the pain associated with them. But know this: whatever stress you are feeling as a parent, your children are feeling it as well.


Use the situation as a teaching tool. Demonstrate to your children that failure is not the end of the world. Show them that it is absolutely possible to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on. Be honest with them about what is happening and why. If you are honest, it not only teaches your children a lesson, but it also helps them forgive and start to heal.


Even if you are doing the best you can to communicate with your child, there are times when he or she may need professional help to deal with big changes and stress in their life. Or perhaps you could use some support as you lead your family through life’s ups and downs. Please contact my office to set up an appointment. I have an office in Jantzen Beach where we could talk in person. I also offer online therapy if it is more convenient for you.

Neuroscience in the Court System - Are 18 Year Olds Really Adults?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


Neuroscience in the Court System Do you think an 18 year old is an adult? It’s commonly accepted that by the age of 18, a young man or a woman is an adult with adult privileges and adult consequences. For example, if you commit a crime at the age of 18 you’ll be tried as an adult in the court of law.

Yet, neuroscience shows that the brain is not fully developed by then. The process for making new connections and pruning unnecessary neurons continues well into the early twenties. Surprisingly, there’s an explosion of connectivity occurring after the age of 18. No wonder these young adults often make unwise decisions!

Earlier I wrote about Laurence Steinberg, a psychologist at Temple University, who found that “cognitive skills usually form by age 16 while psychosocial maturity — measured by impulsivity, risk perception, thrill-seeking, resistance to peer influence — doesn’t begin until age 18, steadily increasing through the early 20s.”

A recent New York Times article considers the impact this is having on the criminal court system and what alternatives we might have. According to the article, “Young adults 18 to 24 make up 10 percent of the population, but they account for 28 percent of all arrests (2.1 million in 2015), a rate higher than that of any other age group.”

The article also reports on a new experiment based on neuroscience. A number of cities are now hosting Young Adult Courts – a hybrid of adult/juvenile justice systems. (San Francisco was the first. Now there are more across the U.S. as well as in England and Wales.)

The court staff is trained in neuroscience by a clinical psychologist, so they can apply this science to offenders between the ages of 18-24. They follow up by providing these immature “adults” with supervision, education, and support as they weekly check in and report their progress.

Rather than having a permanent black mark on their record, which can adversely change their entire future prospects, these young adults are getting help to mature and develop better decision-making skills. This a definite WIN!

Understanding how the brain works is fundamental to solving many of the issues young ones face today. I’m fascinated especially by how empathy is formed in some individuals while it isn’t formed in others. I’ll let you in on a secret…I’m in the process of writing my next book on the topic of empathy. I’m anxious to share with you what I’ve learned.

Did you know I provide online education specifically for how entrepreneurial couples and families with ASD can apply neuroscience and psychology to improve their relationships? And if you have personal issues you need help with, you might qualify for online therapy as well. In our busy, hectic lives, the Internet can make counseling easier and more accessible. Why not see if it’s right for you?

Lessons I Learned about Helicopter Parenting from My ASD Daughter

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


I was a classic helicopter mom to my daughter with Asperger’s Syndrome, and these are some of the lessons I learned and wish I’d done differently.When you discover that your child has Asperger’s Syndrome, it makes you feel utterly helpless. I know, because I’m a trained psychologist, with a master’s degree in social work and a doctoral degree in psychology and I still felt that way about my own daughter who, by the age of 14, was officially diagnosed with ASD.

Recently I wrote an article for PsychCentral about my experience, hoping that it would let others know they’re not alone. (You can read the full article here.) One aspect that I wish I’d done differently is that I became a classic helicopter mother.

I found all kinds of ways to work around the school system. I hired tutors to coach her. I negotiated high school credit from outside activities. I tried Brownies, soccer, piano lessons, and summer camps. I forced her to audition for a prestigious private choir because of her marvelous singing ability—even though she was frightened of the other choir members. I tried everything I could think of to make my autistic child smile.


Being a helicopter parent is a natural outcome of the crazy-making AS/NT world. Our natural instincts are to protectively hover over our children when they have such a serious disability.

However, there are serious drawbacks to helicopter parenting. It leaves you very little time to relax and enjoy your children. As the super-responsible parent, you circle your child with help while not leaving enough time for hugs and play.

Lessons I learned from my ASD daughter:

Helicopter parenting is a natural by-product of loving your very dependent child. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are over-reacting. Your strongest asset is your heart.
  • Channel your helicoptering into finding a good psychologist or Asperger Syndrome specialist.
  • Join a support group like Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD
  • Read everything you can about Asperger Syndrome.
  • Join your local Autism Society affiliate. It’s important that you socialize with other parents and spouses who share your experience.
  • Don’t blame yourself for your mistakes. Love yourself enough to keep on creating a meaningful life in spite of them.
  • Take time to relax and play.

Yes, there have been tremendous improvements in understanding Asperger’s Syndrome. But we have a long way to go to help our AS/NT families. I’ve made it my mission to be a source of knowledge and support. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office and schedule an in-person appointment. If you live elsewhere and are seeking information on ASD, please take advantage of my online education.

6 Things Parents Should Do to Build Resiliency in Their Kids

Monday, June 12, 2017


Mom and daughter looking at computer togetherWhile we tend to remember our childhood as being fairly carefree, being a kid isn’t always a play date in the park. Our children take tests, change schools, compete in sports, move, suffer loss, make friends, and sometimes get hurt by those friends.
 
To deal with these situations successfully kids need to learn to be resilient. It’s a quality that helps us overcome obstacles, persevere when problems arise, and bounce back from adversity.

Resilient kids are good problem-solvers. Instead of viewing unfamiliar or tough situations as obstacles, they view them as opportunities to find solutions. They’re confident that they can figure out what needs to be done and handle whatever is thrown at them.
 
But resilience goes beyond the simple act of overcoming adversity. A truly resilient child has a whole different mindset than their peers who get hung up on failures. They believe that their mistakes do not define them. They know they have the ability to try again and that eventually things will get better. Interestingly, optimism is positively correlated to resilience.
 
Children who develop resilience are also flexible. They can handle surprises and adapt to new situations. They’re also less competitive. A resilient child’s self-esteem comes from within, so they are more likely to appreciate other people’s talents and work well with their peers. Instead of doing things quickly, they work efficiently and with quality. They’ve learned that taking the time to do things right and learning from others pays off.
 
The bottom line is resilient children tend to be happier, healthier, and more successful. We all want that for our children! The good news is that we aren’t born with some finite amount of resilience. It is a quality that can be taught and developed, and like a muscle built and strengthened over time.
 
So what can you do to build a more resilient child? Here are six tips for more resilient children:

1.     Avoid being overprotective. Overprotecting children fuels their anxiety over trying new things or facing a problem. As a culture, we try to make sure our kids are comfortable, but it often goes too far and starts to get in the way of children developing their own problem-solving skills. Let your children feel a little uncomfortable sometimes, and allow them to take appropriate risks. Teach them essential skills and give them age-appropriate freedom to help them learn their own limits.

2.     Teach your kids to problem-solve. Engage your child in figuring out how they can handle challenges. Give them the opportunity, over and over again, to figure out what works for them and what doesn’t. When they make a mistake, instead of asking them why they did it, ask them how they will fix it.

3.     Let your kids make mistakes. Failure is not the end of the world, and kids need to see that firsthand. Letting kids mess up tends to be more painful to parents, but it helps kids learn how to fix their mistakes and make better decisions next time. Let your kids experience the consequences of their actions.

4.     Focus on effort rather than results. You don’t want your children’s self-confidence to be dependent on accomplishments or praise from others. Teach them that failing at something doesn’t make them a failure. Praise the effort they put into something, even if the results are not ideal. This will teach them to endure disappointment, not be devastated by it.

5.     Help them manage their emotions. A key part of developing resilience is emotional management. Teach your kids that emotions are ok! It’s ok to feel. Then teach them that after they feel their feelings, they need to think and figure out what they’re going to do next.

6.     Show your kids that they matter. Like all people, children need to know they are loved and cared for. It is also important for them to believe that someone needs and relies on them. They want to know their existence and presence makes a difference to other people. Listen to your children and support them. As kids navigate new situations and inevitable disappointments, they need to know that they’re not alone. Communicate openly with them. Cultivate a warm, strong relationship. Even when they make a mistake, they should feel they can talk to you about it.

There are times when parents need some help and support. If you feel like you child is overly stressed and you could use some help them be more resilient please contact my office to set up an appointment.  I have an office in Jantzen Beach where we can meet in person or I offer online therapy if that’s a better fit for you.


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