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Kathy Marshack News

Thinking About Turning Over the Family Business?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


father grooming son for family businessAfter years of building a successful business, many owners want to keep it in the family. That brings up the difficult issue of succession. Perhaps your children and grandchildren have grown up with the business. And as they’ve gained abilities, they’ve become valuable members of the family firm. While your children may be highly skilled in their particular specialty, do they have what it takes to lead your team to excellence in your industry?

The qualities of a leader are many. And to some extent the type of leadership style that works in one setting may not work in another. What is common to all successful leaders however, is the ability to communicate with his or her subordinates, colleagues and superiors. The confident leader communicates this confidence and encourages the best from others.

Leaders of family firms who want the best for their families and their business confront the problem of cultivating leadership openly and honestly. They insist on training the next generation in the development of problem solving skills, communication skills, confrontation skills as well as the skills of the specific product manufactured. They also need what I call “the resilience factor", which embraces the qualities of flexibility, a win-win philosophy, quality over quantity, toughness, and foresight.

There are a variety of strategies for ensuring that the second generation in family firms is prepared. The strategy that fits for you depends upon the business, the parent's skills and personality and the skills and personalities of the children.

The child needs an environment where they must prove themselves capable of leadership in the family business. For some this means leaving the business for awhile and working elsewhere. For others, it means getting an education before returning to the family business. Another child may benefit by working their way up from the "mailroom" with no preferential treatment from the parents. Finally, some children will be better family members and more capable adults if they never return to the family business.

There are two goals in family firms. One is to develop a thriving business. The second is to develop healthy independent adults who can contribute to society.

Keep in mind that the business can be successful without the child and the child can be successful without the business. That is, set your sights on accomplishing both goals independent of each other, and you may be surprised how they come together in the long run.

Often it helps to get an objective view of your family and business. A psychologist is skilled at helping you sort out your choices and get clear on your objectives when making big decisions in life. If you’re ready to gain that kind of clarity in your own life, make an appointment with my Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA office.

How Can Families Thrive When It’s Mom Who Has Asperger’s Syndrome?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


mom has aspergers syndromeEven though it is more common for a husband to have Asperger’s Syndrome, it’s quite possible for a mother to have it too. Recent statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention show that five times more males are diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (AS) than females. And while males can reliably be diagnosed as early as 18 months to two years of age; females are often not diagnosed until adulthood.

This presents a real challenge to family happiness, because culturally women are revered as the nurturers of the family. And while women with Asperger’s generally accept that it is a woman’s duty to care for the children and maintain the household and in general keep the family happy and healthy, they just are not very well equipped to handle this role. As a result they are viewed as cold, uncaring, and selfish because they can’t live up to what’s expected of them.

Because women often go undiagnosed, dads are clueless as to why their family dynamics aren’t working. Nuero-Typical (non-Asperger) men need to learn about Asperger Syndrome and be able to talk about their experiences in order to learn how to cope and indeed help themselves and their families to thrive under these challenging circumstances.

How do many Neuro-Typical (NT) dads react when they are faced with a spouse that has Asperger’s Syndrome?

On the surface their reaction is the same as many NT mom’s. They’re angry and hurt. And since they see their wives as neglectful of and abusive to their children, because they expect their wives to be the more nurturing parent, these feelings are magnified for an NT dad. Without help, the NT father gets angrier and angrier. This clouds the real problem—his undiagnosed Asperger’s wife and her limited parenting skills. Anger and withdrawal are common ways NT dads deal with parenting problems associated with marriage to an Aspie wife.

NT dads should recognize the anger for what it is, depression. They feel trapped by the double bind of wanting to protect their children and wanting to be free of the emotional neglect in their marriage. Even in our contemporary society, the role reversal for NT dads is hard. Besides working full-time, these dads must come home and do much of the cooking, cleaning and caring for the children.

Something that exacerbates the problem is that many NT dads grew up in families with members who are autistic. These men may unconsciously have sought out an Aspie spouse, because it is a dynamic with which they are familiar. If they have not learned how to cope with Asperger’s in their childhood, which is very likely the case, they will carry this dysfunctional behavior into their married lives.

What can NT dads do to help their families to thrive?

Recognizing the problem is an important first step. If you’re a dad dealing with an AS spouse, get professional help immediately for your own sake and that of your family. Trust that your anger is not without reason, and realize that staying angry will only make you sick and destroy the family. Family counseling is good, but it’s also advisable for dads to find a personal therapist, separate from the marital therapist. NT dads need a safe place to talk and resolve their feelings of anger without being destructive.

Read a free chapter of “Our of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD)”. This book discusses the science behind Aspie behavior and how you can initiate the rules of engagement that help your Aspie give you and your children the emotional support you need.

Studies Show How Fathers Influence Our Decisions

Thursday, June 19, 2014


father's influence on childrenDoes a father’s presence really make a difference in whether or not his children have a successful life? For years, the father’s influence on the family has been overlooked in scientific research. Now that family dynamics are changing, this is an important question to revisit. Paul Raeburn’s recent article in Scientific American discusses some studies that are shedding new light. Here are a few of the findings:

Richard Koestner, a psychologist at McGill University, looked back at 75 men and women who had been part of a study at Yale University in the 1950s, and he concluded that the one factor that affects a child’s ability to show empathy isn’t how affectionate the parents are, but rather how much time the father spent with the child.

Melanie Horn Mallers, a psychologist at California State University, Fullerton, found that sons who had good relationships with their fathers handle day-to-day stresses better.

A team at the University of Toronto found that when a child views his or her mother’s face, there’s activity in several parts of the brain. However, viewing father’s face caused activity in the part of the brain associated with feelings of love – the caudate.

Ronald P. Rohner of the University of Connecticut thinks that parental acceptance from both the mother and father influence their children’s personalities. Those who feel accepted are independent and emotionally stable, have strong self-esteem and hold a positive worldview. Those who feel rejected are hostile, feel inadequate, and are prone to instability and negativity.

Bruce J. Ellis of the University of Arizona found that when girls are close to their fathers and spent a lot of time with them during the first five to seven years, they enter puberty later and show more sexual restraint.

Psychologists Sarah E. Hill and Danielle J. DelPriore, both at Texas Christian University discovered that a father’s absence, physically or psychologically, accelerates the daughters’ reproductive development and increases the likelihood of engaging in sexually risky behavior.

It’s one thing to understand the facts in these studies, it’s another thing to see how to improve the dynamics in your family. Parenting is too important of a job to wing it so don’t be afraid to ask for help. A family counselor can help you – if you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, contact my office and set up an appointment.

To learn more about being a good parent visit – Parenting.

Are You Using Tablet Apps to Help Children with Autism?

Wednesday, June 04, 2014


tablet apps for children with autismAs a parent, you know how much your autistic child struggles to communicate and learn. Whenever we discover new tools that can make this easier, we’re happy to share those with you. Recently the CNN story by Kelly Heather, “Using tablets to reach kids with autism,” brought to my attention different apps that, while they weren’t necessarily designed for those with autism, are proving to be very useful.

Tablets can be very entertaining as children play games and watching videos on them. But when you use the right app, they can do so much more to help those with autism to communicate and learn. Here are a few apps that you might find useful:

Puppet Pals allows you to recreate social scenes in a play format, so everyone can discuss how a situation can be improved. The article gives an example of when two boys who were playing together turned to hurtful behavior. Their speech therapist used this iPad app to recreate the incident using photos of the classroom and the kids involved to set the scene. As they watched it together they discussed what went wrong and how they could avoid a situation like that in the future.

Flummox and Friends is an app and a TV show that appeals to 6 to 12 year old children with autism. It uses humor to teach social skills. Inventors and their friends guide kids as they invent new ways of dealing with tricky social situations so your child discovers new solutions for themselves, too.

Siri is an interactive app that can help children with their articulation. A person speaks in a normal voice and it understands what is said and can send it as a message. It can even talk back.

Tablets are easy to use, since they can be held in the lap and don’t need a mouse. Your child simply touches the screen instead. They are relatively inexpensive tools that help parents and educators communicate with and teach those on the autism spectrum. For children who aren't speaking, there are even a lot of different voice-output apps available.

Sometimes to reach someone with autism you need to be creative. In my practice, I’ve discovered that use texting within the session helps autistic adults and youth who struggle with communication to be relaxed and actually enjoy our conversations. Have you found an app that would benefit those on the autism spectrum that you’d like to recommend? If so, please join me on my Facebook page, (https://www.facebook.com/Kathy.Marshack.Ph.D) and let us know what it is.

Confused about which app to use? Check out Apps for Autism, a new Australian website designed to help you choose.

Are Mental Disorders More Prevalent in Children of Older Fathers?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


kids of older dads may be more prone to mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, autism and schizophreniaMany men postpone having children until they are financially established. As a result, they are becoming parents in their 30’s, 40’s and even 50’s. We’ve known for years that women aged 40 and over run a greater risk of having children who are autistic. Now, according to a recently published study, the age of the father may also be a factor in the increase of mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, autism and schizophrenia.

Science reporter, Benedict Carey reported on this hotly debated issue in a recent New York Times article. The study was conducted in Sweden and compared siblings within families. The children born when the father was young differed from the children that came years later. They found that the risk for mental disorders rose as the paternal age increased.

Why may this be happening? The article explains:
“Any increased risk due solely to paternal age is most likely a result of the accumulation of genetic mutations in sperm cells. Unlike women, who age with a limited number of eggs, men have to replenish their supply of sperm cells. Studies suggest that the cells’ repeated reproductions lead to the accumulation of random errors over time, called de novo mutations. Most such mutations are harmless, geneticists say, but some have been linked to mental disorders.”

Should you be concerned? This certainly shouldn’t panic you. We have to be careful how studies are interpreted. It would be unfounded to jump to the conclusion that producing children after the age of 30 means they are certain to having mental disorders. But it’s good to be aware that this may be a contributing factor. And it should be included in your discussion as a couple about whether or not you want to have children.

There’s no guarantee that any child will be born without serious health problems. The issue is how will you handle the challenge if your child does suffer a birth defect or has a mental disorder. My advice is not to worry excessively, but if you see indications that your child is not responding as he or she should be, seek the advice of a professional who is trained in diagnosing such disorders. Working closely with your child’s pediatrician, these professionals will be able to assess the situation, educate you on what the diagnosis means and help you and your child to cope as a family.

Are you looking for guidance regarding your relationship with a family member with Asperger Syndrome? For further Autism Spectrum Disorder resources see Remote Education Asperger Relationships.

Parents – Do You Want to Talk with Your Teen? But Feel Shut Out

Friday, March 14, 2014


parenting tips for talking with teensAs parents, we love our children and we do whatever we can to make their lives happy and healthy. So to wake up one morning and discover your teen is shutting you out is heart wrenching. The closeness you once had seems to be gone for good. Having raised two children and counseled hundreds of adolescents I understand how hard it can be.

Remember that teenagers are going through huge transitions within their bodies, emotions and minds. They are also experiencing external pressures from peers and the world they’re trying to fit into. So now more than ever, your children need you to be in their corner looking out for them. However, the challenge is that the very changes they are experiencing makes them push you away as they learn to become independent of you.

Is it possible for parents to maintain or regain good communication with their teens? Yes! I was pleased to see a recent CNN article that recounts the experiences of many parents who successfully reach their teens. They shared their advice, including the following tips:

  • Try to keep serious discussions as "light" as you can. (At the same time, avoid making them think it’s trivial to you.)
  • Don’t be afraid to tackle any subject. (They will learn it from you or someone else.)
  • Be willing to reveal your own vulnerabilities and mistakes. (This helps them see you as a real person not just as “mom” or “dad”.)
  • Learn to keep your face expressionless and think before you speak. (You don’t want to over react when you hear something you don’t like.)
  • Don’t micromanage everything for them. (They need to be given responsibility they can handle and made to feel like you trust them to do the right thing.)
  • Communicate in a way that’s comfortable for your teen. (It’s easier to talk when doing things together like cooking dinner or driving in the car.)
  • Start talking when your children are young. (But know that it is never too late.)

Be sure to check out the slide show at the top of Kelly Wallace’s story. These parental suggestions contain some real gems of wisdom.

If you’d like some more parenting tips, check out the five key skills all parents need on my website – Am I a Good Parent.

Please join me on Twitter and share your thought about how you keep the lines of communication open or things you remember your parents doing that really made a difference in your life. Please use #parentingtips and @KathyMarshack so I will see your comments.

Robbie’s List of Helpful Back to School Resources for Kids with Special Needs

Thursday, March 06, 2014


back to school resources for special needs kidsRecently I felt so honored that one of my young readers reached out to me because, after reading my article, Help Your Special Needs Child Prepare for the New School Year, he wanted to share additional helpful online resources that parents and teachers can use to benefit children with special needs. (His tutor, Kelly Campbell, from educatorlabs.org helped him.)

This young man clearly wants to make a difference in the world that he lives in. His name is Robbie. He chose to do research for a school project called “How to Prepare for the Start of School”. While doing his research, he compiled a list to share with me, so I could share it with you. I am very happy to do so today.

Robbie’s List of Back to School Resources for Children with Special Needs

Back to School Resources This is a list of links from usa.gov to learn about resources for health (checkups, immunizations, healthy eating, physical fitness) and school (school bus safety, financial aid, homework help, supplies).

20 Apps for Play-Based Learning This is a list of 20 (apps) games with a brief description for each, pricing, and which device they work on.

Homework Help This offers a comprehensive PDF that lists why homework is beneficial and how special needs children can get the most from it.

Kids.gov: School-Related Information on a Safe Site This is a list of links for information that teachers and parents can use when teaching children about Art, Exercise, Fitness and Nutrition, Government, Health and Safety, History, Jobs, Math, Money, Music, Online Safety, Reading and Writing, Science and Social Studies.

Parent's Guide to Finding Safe Online Communities for Kids These are guidelines that alert parents to potential dangers online as well as tips for finding safe online sites that comply with Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

I’m sure you’ll agree that Robbie has compiled some very helpful information that parents and teachers can utilize when teaching children, especially those with special needs.

When a young person takes this kind of initiative I am very impressed. Clearly Robbie is one of those people who will make a difference in the world. It only takes one small kindness such as his to make a difference.

Please leave a comment below (simply click on the comments link below and submit your comment) or share your thoughts on my Facebook page so Robbie can see how all of you feel about his very much-appreciated contribution today.

What Are You Really Teaching Your Children About Money?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


When children are young, they don’t understand the concept of what money is and how it works. Offer a little one the choice between a dull dime and a bright shiny nickel, and they’ll pick the nickel because it’s pretty and bigger.

When a child doesn’t learn the real value of money, as an adult they will struggle with money problems, which may escalate into relationship problems. Either they’ll undervalue it and squander it, thinking they can just ask for more. Or they’ll go to the other extreme of attaching too much importance to it sacrificing their own health or relationships for it.

A healthy view of money sees money as a means of exchanging what you have for what you want or need. To get money, you expend resources, such as time, accumulated knowledge and energy, to earn it. How can you instill good financial habits in children? What money values do you want your children to live by? An article written by a financial advisor, Wayne Von Borstel, made me think about this topic today. He had some very good advice.

First and foremost parents teach by example. Your children will copy your attitude toward money and the way you handle it. This is especially true if you run a family-owned business

You can discuss with your partner these questions to determine what model you’re giving to your children:

Do I argue over money with my spouse? Do we have a budget? Do we spend beyond our means, wracking up huge credit card debt? Do we make monthly deposits to a savings account? Do we make charitable donations? Do we keep funds especially earmarked for emergencies that can’t be dipped into for any reason? Do we save money for a vacation as a family? Have we set up a college fund for our children? Do we require our children to contribute toward any of these?

Helping your children see the real value of money also involves actively participating in making and spending money. When they earn the money they spend, they’ll make the connection that the amount available is limited by the time and effort put into earning it. This contributes toward creating a good work ethic. And as you guide them in how to spend money wisely, perhaps entrusting them with a specific amount for buying school clothes, or saving a portion in a savings account or college fund, they learn good financial habits.

What do you do when you want to train your children in money management, but your spouse has different ideas? Are you searching for conflict resolution techniques that really solve the issues over money in your family? If so, then contact my Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA office and set up an appointment.

If you’re an entrepreneuerial couple I address parenting and financial disagreements in my book, Entrepreneurial Couples: Making It Work at Work and at Home. You can also read Wayne Von Borstel’s entire article, 8 Ways to Maximize a Child’s Financial Potential, here.

Medication or Therapy? Which Treatment Is Best for your ADHD Children?

Friday, February 07, 2014


best treatment for adhd childrenThere has been a decades long debate whether medication or behavioral therapy is the best long-term treatment for children with ADHD. So an article written by Alan Schwarz in the New York Times caught my eye. He reports that the original findings of the Multimodal Treatment Study of Children With A.D.H.D were taken to mean that medication was hands down the best option.


Now, some of the authors of this study are worried that these findings were skewed because they tested primarily for reducing the hyperactivity and lack of focus, which medication is designed to remedy quickly. How children perform in school and on a social level was not addressed in the study.

He reports that one of the study researchers, Stephen Hinshaw, a psychologist at U.C. Berkeley said, “My belief based on the science is that symptom reduction is a good thing, but adding skill-building is a better thing. If you don’t provide skills-based training, you’re doing the kid a disservice. I wish we had had a fairer test.”

Medication can treat the symptoms of hyperactivity and improve the ability to concentrate. This makes a person more receptive to learning new behaviors. But life-long improvement in interpersonal relationships must include learning, through therapy, social skills among which is empathy. Kids with ADHD are not just impulsive and distractible they also often ignore the feelings of others.

Behavioral therapy, emotional counseling and practical support are all needed to improve the child’s self-esteem and ability to cope with the frustrations of daily life. Some children release this frustration by acting contrary, starting fights or destroying property. Some turn the frustration into body ailments, like the stomachache before school. Still others hide how badly they feel.

Over time a therapist can help people with ADHD identify and build on their strengths and learn to cope with daily stresses in a constructive way. If you live near Portland, OR or Vancouver, WA, and would like assistance for your child, please contact my office and set up an appointment.

You can read more about Parenting a Child with ADD/ADHD on my website.

Pharmaceutical Ad Campaigns Influence Over-Diagnosis of ADHD

Monday, January 20, 2014


boy with ADHD is very activeAt one time they were labeled as “bad kids.” Thankfully over the last two decades doctors, educators and parents have come to recognize that children with ADHD have a very real neurological disorder that needs treatment. But are we swinging too far in the opposite direction? Is ADHD being over-diagnosed?

A recent New York Times article draws attention to what Dr. Keith Conners, psychologist, professor emeritus at Duke University, and early advocate for recognition of ADHD, had to say about this alarming trend. He noted that recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the diagnosis had been made in 15 percent of high school-age children, and that the number of children on medication for the disorder had soared to 3.5 million from 600,000 in 1990. “The numbers make it look like an epidemic. Well, it’s not. It’s preposterous. This is a concoction to justify the giving out of medication at unprecedented and unjustifiable levels.”

This highlights the problem of over-diagnosis and over-medication of ADHD. The pharmaceutical companies are vigorously marketing their drugs to doctors, parents and even children through various ad campaigns. This article goes on to report, “The Food and Drug Administration has cited every major A.D.H.D. drug — stimulants like Adderall, Concerta, Focalin and Vyvanse, and nonstimulants like Intuniv and Strattera — for false and misleading advertising since 2000, some multiple times.”

Because of side effects and danger of addiction, medication cannot be viewed as harmless. It’s important for parents to educate themselves before consenting to drug treatment for their children. After a proper diagnosis, medications can be prescribed to temporarily control the symptoms, but they cannot cure the disorder.

Psychological help is also needed to improve self-esteem and to instill life-long coping skills. Behavioral therapy, emotional counseling and practical support are essential for lasting improvement. After discussing with a doctor ALL treatments available, as a parent you ultimately need to make the final decision about what’s best for your child.

If you are searching for the best diagnosis and treatment for neurological disorders such as ADHD, consult a psychologist or psychiatrist. A thorough evaluation of the person’s medical, academic and family history is essential for a proper assessment of type and severity of the disorder and other associated emotional problems. Contact my Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA office to schedule an appointment.

Learn more on my website – ADD & ADHD.


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