Therapy That Works...

How To Spot Teens Who Cut And Burn Video - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What To Do About Parental Alienation Video - By Chris Gearing

Friday, October 15, 2010

Is Parental Alienation A Real Problem? Video - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Stopping Self-Mutilation - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Stopping Self-Mutilation:

What To Do About Teens Who Cut And Burn

Cutting, burning, and pinching are all ways that teenagers try to hurt themselves. A recent study found that 20% of teens have engaged in self-injury at some point in their adolescence.

But what’s the big deal?

Underlying Diagnosis: Beyond the obvious risks of serious physical injury or infection, this behavior can have devastating consequences psychologically. Self-injury is usually caused by some kind of deeper issue such as undiagnosed depression, anxiety, and extreme social isolation. In addition, teens who self-mutilate are at a much higher risk to commit suicide.

Lack of Coping: Most self-injurers report that they use it as a means to cope with negative emotions and to calm themselves down. In effect, their self-mutilation tricks the brain into releasing endorphins which numb pain and cause a sense of euphoria.

Teens hurt themselves for reasons that fit into four distinct categories:

1.) Release of tension and to stop negative feelings about themselves or others

2.) To feel, experience, and maybe even enjoy pain

3.) The classic “cry for help”

4.) To become an outsider

Here’s are some specifics ways that teens hurt themselves:

  • Cutting
  • Burning
  • Carving into their skin
  • Intentional breaking of bones
  • Sticking with pins and needles

Parents, your daughters are more likely to cut, carve, and insert pins and needles while your sons are more likely to burn and intentionally break bones.

Now, is this a passing fad or something that parents should really be worried about?

Cyclical Nature: After committing harms to themselves, self-injurers often feel shame about what they have done and fear social rejection for their scars and behavior. This in turn only reinforces whatever anxiety or depression they were feeling beforehand and can start the cycle all over again.

Consequences For Life: Around eighty percent of self-mutilators report stopping the behavior within a few years of starting it due to "growing out of it" or they sought help. However, those who report self-injury tend to report higher levels of sadness and difficulty for the rest of their lives.

If you or someone you know is engaging in self-injury, please seek professional help immediately. This is an extremely difficult thing to deal with without the help of a professional therapist.

Sources:

"The Kids Aren't All Right" by Rachael Rettner on MSNBC.com, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39100605/ns/health-kids_and_parenting/

The Effect of Parental Alienation On Children - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Parental Alienation II:

The Effect of Parental Alienation on Children

Parental alienation—the relentless campaign of one estranged parent to destroy their child’ relationship with the other parent—is on the rise. It spans the range from careless hostile remarks to premeditated and systematic attempts to assassinate the character of the targeted parent.

If you are concerned if your child is a victim of parental alienation, be on the lookout for the following behaviors:

Brainwashed by Lies: These kids are basically brainwashed and now regard their targeted parent as the enemy or as a worthless afterthought. This kind of betrayal can occur even in the most tender and loving relationships. Tragically, I have seen such division lasting for years.

Contempt, Rejection and Disrespect: The child shows contempt, rejection, and disrespect for the targeted parent. These comments are often irrational, insulting and traumatizing to the parent who feels helpless and hopeless.

Rehearsed Answers: The child has been taught to orient to the controlling needs of the alienating parent at all costs. He is often unable to specify why he dislikes the targeted parent. In fact, he may exaggerate the faults of the parent to justify his rejection. His comments parrot the alienator’s words and feelings.

Long Term Damage: There is minimal data on the long-term effects of such alienation on kids. However, we do know that the earlier the separation from a parent, the more traumatic it is for the child. The basic tenants of loving relationships—trust, loyalty, and forgiveness are never learned and the child may struggle for a lifetime because of these experiences.

There are several steps you can take to preserve your relationship with your child:

Educate Yourself: Parental alienation can be an elusive phenomenon to prove especially in a highly intense forum such as child custody. There are several books with great resources that are “must reads” for parents (Please see the sources for this post).

Remain Calm: Understand that you have been systematically undermined and that you are taking every step to remediate the situation. Focus on what you can control and don’t stress about other factors. Do not lose your temper, reject your child or insult your ex in front of your child.

Work with Great Experts: Hire a psychologist and a lawyer who are proven experts in parental alienation. The therapist must acknowledge the massive psychological impact such alienation has on the child and targeted parent. Your attorney needs to possess a solid understanding of this type of emotional abuse and the substantial legal skills to protect your child and your interests.

Sources:

"Divorce Poison," Dr. Richard Warshak

"The Custody Revolution" by Dr. Richard Warshak

"Divorce Casualties: Understanding Parental Alienation," Dr. Douglas Darnall

Is Parental Alienation A Real Problem? - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Parental Alienation I:

Is Parental Alienation a Real Problem?

The term parental alienation first came into the public conversation during the bitter custody struggle between actors Kim Bassinger and Alec Baldwin. This widespread phenomenon has done tremendous harm to America’s families. Now psychologists are wrestling with whether parental alienation is a classifiable mental health syndrome.

So what is parental alienation and why is it becoming such a problem for American children?

Systematic Campaign of Alienation: Parental alienation is a systematic campaign of character assassination. It is not gender related or age related. One parent is determined to permanently alienate the child’s affections toward the other parent.

Spans the Range: Parental Alienation spans the range from careless, self serving comments that undermine the child’s view of the other parent to outright malicious intent, legal battles and reckless actions.

Emotional Abuse of Children: Parental alienation is a form of emotional abuse of the child. As one expert said “ Bad mouth your ex and you simultaneously bad mouth your child.”

So why do parents set out the ruin the relationship of their ex with the child?

Revenge: Getting back and getting even is the number one reason parents assault their ex’s. Rebuffed or disappointed spouses get enormous secondary gain from inflicting pain on a spouse they believe has wronged them.

Child is Perceived as a Possession: For some parents, adequate boundaries with their children are absent. They child is an extension of themselves. The mind of the child becomes the battlefield for revenge. The parent attempts to banish the other parent so he can have the child to himself.

Compensating for Inadequacy and Guilt: Parents try to resolve the rejection or their sense of failure by convincing themselves that they are the best parent. Posturing as the superior parent makes them feel better even if it’s at the expense of their child. They have no conscience about the suffering of the child and the other parent.

Sources:

"Divorce Poison," Dr. Richard Warshak

"The Custody Revolution" by Dr. Richard Warshak

"Divorce Casualties: Understanding Parental Alienation," Dr. Douglas Darnall

Backyard Fight Clubs - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Backyard Fight Clubs: Suburban Violence

By Dr. Sylvia Gearing

Frisco Texas police are reporting ongoing fight clubs in local neighborhood back yards. Adolescent boys are engaging in competitive fighting against one another that is unmonitored and uncensored. Incredibly, some parents are actually approving of this practice and attend the events.

In my opinion, these fight clubs in Frisco and around the country are symptomatic of the ongoing crisis in American males. Most people do not know that violence is becoming a way of life for many of our boys. Here’s what the latest research shows:

  • Boys between the ages of twelve to nineteen commit One third of violent crimes.
  • Homicides are the second leading cause of death of this same age group.
  • Young males are 400% more likely to be murdered than are females.
  • The American Medical Association has determined that ten percent of adolescent males have has been kicked in the groin by age 16.
  • Twenty five percent of these kids develop symptoms of clinical depression in a year after the violent episode due to the overwhelming shame these events created.

Violence, even if it is somewhat “controlled” in a fight club, is symptomatic of a basic problem American men are experiencing. From early childhood, they are not socialized to “metabolize” their emotions and learn instead to express themselves primarily through their actions and achievements.

Over time, many men fail to develop the complex emotional intelligence necessary to manage themselves effectively. They can’t communicate, they can’t recover from failure and they sink into depression on a dime. They become disconnected from what they feel and use a limited number of emotions to navigate their relationships with their wives and girlfriends, often with disastrous results. Relationships fail, achievement is compromised and hearts are broken.

Ironically, anger is a socially approved emotion for young men because it is energizing and protects them from the shame and self-loathing so many of them experience. Fight clubs are a ritualized outlet for boys and men to express their frustration and angst. The clubs are an effort for them to normalize and even to glorify the physical violence they exert against one another. They think that by pitting themselves against an adversary, they demonstrate their machismo, defend their honor, and show how tough they really are.

Many kids see fighting as a futile attempt to bond with others and to express their individuality as a man. This ritual of “connection” gives them an illusion of being tough, invincible and undefeatable. I believe that such rituals, even in the backyard, are capable of desensitizing kids to violence and are likely to increase their use of violence, bullying and intimidation to get what they want.

These practices are indefensible and should be actively banned from our communities. Any parent who turns a blind eye to this kind of activity is ultimately sabotaging his son while teaching him that violence can be both an outlet and a solution.

Source:

Real Boys by William Pollack, Ph.D.

Bullying and Suicide - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bullying and Suicide

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

Channel 11/TXA 21, March 31, 2010

A teenager in Joshua, TX committed suicide over the weekend after many years of bullying by peers. Thirteen-year-old Jon Carmichael reportedly took his own life due to a longstanding pattern of being bullied by classmates leaving North Texans asking how this could happen.

Here are the specifics of bullying:

Bullying is most definitely increasing with up to 30% of students reporting that they are involved with bullying in some way (either as the bully, the victim or bystander). As we see in this tragedy, the devastating consequences of bullying can be deadly. In addition, two out of three school shooters report being chronically bullied in school.

Here are the characteristics of bullying:

Intentional Harm: Bullying in childhood is an aggressive form of intimidation that marginalizes the best of children while deeply scarring them psychologically. It is a repeated attempt to harm and to emphasize a humiliating imbalance of power and influence.

Bullying Begins Early: Research reports that almost 34% of students that reported being frequently bullied were in elementary school.

Middle School Peaks: Bullying increases during transition periods such as moving from elementary to middle school.

Group Bullying: Bullying is usually a group activity. Studies show that a single child does not usually victimize kids. Bullying involves both active and passive participation by a group. The kids adopt a mob mentality as they team together to ridicule or emotionally torture another child.

The question everyone is asking is why a child would begin bullying others in the first place:

Modeling their Parents: They are often victims of physical and emotional bullying at home and have parents who have problems with anger and self control. They identify with the aggressor and inflict pain to establish internal self-control.

Intimidation and Revenge Justified by Parents: Parents who lack a moral compass and inflict pain deliberately on others in any way (including bullying in business, in social settings, at the mall, etc.) are more likely to have children who view bullying as a justified behavior. Family values that include rudeness, intimidation of others, revenge, character assault of others or deliberate treachery create children who are much more likely to engage in bullying.

Self-Centered Kids: Lots of kids have difficult parents and don’t go out in the world hurting others. Many bullies are choosing their heinous behavior out of their own self-centeredness and delight in hurting others. They literally lack a conscience and are in deep psychological trouble.

Bullies Know Difference Between Right and Wrong: The research about bullies reveals that most of the time they know exactly what they are doing. They understand the differences between right and wrong and commit the act anyway. They will lie, cheat and steal to avoid punishment and are deceptive with others. Although some studies suggest that around 40% of them have some mild empathy, another 40% are indifferent to the suffering of their victims and 20% actively enjoy the intimidation and control.

Now we are seeing a new trend with the advent of social media and the age of the internet: cyber bullying.

Anonymous Bullies: The common denominator of all bullying is the intentional act to inflict pain on another person. Unfortunately, the anonymity of the Internet is ideal for such vicious behavior. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project in 2006, one third of students are targets at some point.

Cyber Bullying Turns Dangerous: Most of the time, cyber bullying involves gossip and rude comments that do not express direct intent to harm. Around 50% of online bullies report that they inflict such cruelty “for fun” and to “teach the target a lesson.” However, a study published in 2006 reported that 12% of teens were physically threatened online and 5% actually feared for their physical safety.

What about the long-term effects of bullying?

All Kids Are Harmed by Bullying: The long-term effects of bullying for each participant can be severe with protracted trauma, depression and resentment stretching into the adult years.

Three Victims: Words are weapons and psychological harm can be as severe or worse than physical wounds. Bullying involves three victims—the bully, the recipient of the bullying and the witnesses to such cruelty.

The Victim, The Bully and The Bystander:

Victims Develop Serious Depression and Helplessness: Victims report more internal problems such as depression and anxiety. Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine found a significant connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide in a review of 37 studies from 13 countries. Bullying victims were much more likely to think about suicide.

Bullies and a Lifelong Pattern of Oppositional Behavior: Bullies have more conduct problems, anger and develop alienation from school and the community. Chronic oppositional behavior is typical of such children leading to a lifetime of hardship.

Bystanders Grow Apathetic and Uncaring: Witnesses become desensitized to the suffering of others and do not take responsibility for allowing such cruelty to occur.

Parents, here’s what you can do about bullying:

Stop Denying: Many adults prefer to view bullying as a normal “rite of passage” through childhood. Nothing could be further from the truth. Please educate yourself about this pattern of trauma and train yourself to recognize it when you see it.

Bystanders Are Key: Research now argues that the bystanders of bullying are one of the vital keys to decreasing this growing problem. Teaching non-bullied kids to speak up, to refuse to be an audience, to label bullying publicly and to go and get help when the situation is out of control are essential steps for parents and teachers.

Believe Your Child’s Perception: Believe your child about bullying. Do not dismiss his perceptions. Adults lose credibility quickly when the child’s perception is rejected or minimized. There are millions of victims who no longer believe that adults are going to protect them and they suffer in silence.

Move from Victim to Survivor: Victims are renowned for responding ineffectively through withdrawal, denial, silence and passivity. Such behaviors “feed” the bully’s control. We need to develop the victim’s talents, social skills, physical coordination and assertive abilities. He needs to be reassured that adults will take his complaints seriously and that he must report harassment. These are teachable skills and they increase self-confidence exponentially.

For More information about Dr. Sylvia, please go to www.gearingup.com

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics

Bullying and Teasing: Social Power in Children’s Groups, Gayle Macklem, Kluwer Academic/ Plenum Publishers, New York, 2003.

Cowie and Wallace (2006)

Patchin, J.W., and Hinduja, S (2006) Bullies move beyond the schoolyard: A preliminary look at cyber bullying. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 4, 148-169.

Swearer, S., Espeleage, D. Napolitano, S. Bullying: Prevention and Intervention, 2009

Vossekuil, B., Fein, R.A., Reddy, M., Borum, R and Modzeleski, W (2002) The final report and findings of the safe school initiative: Implications for the prevention of school attacks in the United States. Washington, D.C: U.S. Secret Services and U.S. Department of Education

Electronics May Overtake Your Children - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Electronic Media Can Overtake Your Children

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

CBS 11 News, January 20, 2010

Are you worried about your child spending too much time on Facebook, playing video games, or texting? Well, you may have good reason.

On average, kids spend more than 53 hours a week on electronic media according to a new study of 2000 kids. Compared with peers a decade ago, young people spend 79 more minutes of free time each day:

  • Listening to Music
  • Watching TV and movies
  • Playing video games
  • Hanging out on line

Most kids multitask while doing all of these things (i.e., play video games while listening to music).

Your kids have become big business in the land of advertising.

In 1983, advertisers spent an average of $100 million in marketing to kids. Now they spend $17 billion- an increase of 170%. Kids between ages of 8-12 years old spend $30 billion a year on video games.

And that’s great – children have a market share and are more empowered now than they ever have been. But there is a downside:

Your Brain Needs to be Stimulated: These activities take the place of face time activities. Electronic media does not replace the medicine of direct social interaction. The brain needs to be stimulated with conversation, social nuances and laughter. The continuous flow of conversation and shared activities activate numerous beneficial hormones and neurotransmitters.

Choosing Isolation: In a world of electronics, teenagers and people over age eighty are the loneliest people on earth. Teenagers choose to seclude themselves in their phones and computers, shutting out their family and maybe even friends. In extreme cases, games and other media (such as the extremely popular “World of Warcraft”) have been show to ruin lives and tear families apart.

Friends Are Like Medicine: They buffer the effects of stress. The stress of socially active people is buffered up to seven times. Having and interacting with friends can literally predict someone’s amount of brain activity and cognitive function.

Our world is more connected than ever – thanks to smart phones, Wi-Fi, and social media.

Although these can be an excellent tool, too much of anything is never good. Make sure to watch your dependence levels and try taking a break every once in a while. Who knows? You may like the world outside your door.

For more information on Dr. Sylvia Gearing, please visit www.gearingup.com.

Bullying - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Bullying: The Devastating Effects on Children and Teens

September 3, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

Bullying has become a serious mental health issue for millions of American families with up to 30% of students reporting their involvement in bullying as either the bully, the victim or bystander. The devastating consequences of bullying can be deadly with 2/3 of school shooters report being chronically bullied in school.

Here are the specific characteristics of bullying:

  • Intentional Harm: Bullying in childhood is an aggressive form of intimidation that marginalizes the best of children while deeply scarring them psychologically. It is a repeated attempt to harm and to emphasize a humiliating imbalance of power and influence.
  • Bullying Begins Early: Research reports that almost 34% of elementary school students reported being frequently bullied at school.
  • Middle School Peaks: Bullying increases during transition periods such as moving from elementary to middle school. This behavior peaks in middle school.
  • Group Bullying: Bullying is usually a group activity. Studies show that a single child does not usually victimize kids. Bullying involves both active and passive participation by a group. The kids adopt a mob mentality as they team together to ridicule or emotionally torture another child.

You may wonder why a child would bully their peers. Here’s what the newest research tell us:

Self-Centeredness: They are often victims of bullying at home and have parents who have problems with anger. They identify with the aggressor and inflict pain to establish internal self-control. However, lots of kids have difficult parents and don’t go out in the world hurting others. Bullies are choosing their heinous behavior out of their own self-centeredness and pain. These kids are in deep psychological trouble.

Bullies Know Difference Between Right and Wrong: The research about these kids suggests that most of the time they know exactly what they are doing. They understand the differences between right and wrong and commit the act anyway. They will lie, steal and cheat to avoid punishment and are sneaky around others. Although some studies suggest that around 40% of them have some mild empathy, another 40% are indifferent to the suffering of their victims and 20% actively enjoy the intimidation and control.

Websites like “Juicy Campus” and TV shows such as “Gossip Girl” have begun to shed light on a terrible new trend in bullying – cyber bullying.

Anonymous Bullies: The common denominator of all bullying is the intentional act to inflict pain on another person. Unfortunately, the anonymity of the Internet is ideal for such vicious behavior. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project in 2006, one third of students are targets at some point.

Cyber Bullying Turns Dangerous: Most of the time, cyber bullying involves gossip and rude comments that do not express direct intent to harm. Around 50% of online bullies report that they inflict such cruelty “for fun” and to “teach the target a lesson.” However, a study published in 2006 reported that 12% of teens were physically threatened online and 5% actually feared for their physical safety.

Bullying can have terrible, long-term effects on children that can last a lifetime.

Three Victims: Words are weapons and psychological harm is as severe as a broken bone. Bullying involves three victims—the bully, the recipient of the bullying and the witnesses to such cruelty. Victims report more internal problems such as depression and anxiety while bullies have more conduct problems, anger and alienation from school and the community. Witnesses become desensitized to the suffering of others. The long-term effects of bullying for all groups can be severe with protracted trauma, depression and resentment stretching into the adult years.

Increased Suicidal Ideation: Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine found a significant connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide in a review of 37 studies from 13 countries. Bullying victims were much more likely to think about suicide.

Parents — if you are concerned, here’s what you can do:

  • Stop Denying: Many adults prefer to view bullying as a normal “rite of passage” through childhood. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are millions of victims who no longer believe that adults are going to protect them and they suffer in silence.
  • Bystanders Are Key: Research now argues that the bystanders of bullying are one of the vital keys to decreasing this growing problem. Teaching non-bullied kids to speak up, to refuse to be an audience, to label bullying publicly and to go and get help when the situation is out of control are essential steps for parents and teachers.
  • Empower the Victims: Believe your child about bullying. Victims are renowned for responding ineffectively through withdrawal, denial, silence and passivity. Such behaviors “feed” the bully’s control. We need to develop the victim’s talents, social skills, physical coordination and assertive abilities. He needs to be reassured that adults will take his complaints seriously and that he must report harassment. These are teachable skills and they increase self-confidence exponentially.

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics

Bullying and Teasing: Social Power in Children’s Groups, Gayle Macklem, Kluwer Academic/ Plenum Publishers, New York, 2003.

Cowie and Wallace (2006)

Patchin, J.W., and Hinduja, S (2006) Bullies move beyond the schoolyard: A preliminary look at cyber bullying. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 4, 148-169.

Swearer, S., Espeleage, D. Napolitano,S. Bullying: Prevention and Intervention, 2009

Vossekuil, B., Fein, R.A., Reddy, M., Borum, R and Modzeleski, W (2002) The final report and findings of the safe school initiative: Implications for the prevention of school attacks in the United States. Washington, D.C: U.S. Secret Services and U.S. Department of Education.


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