Therapy That Works...

How To Help Your Traumatized Child - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How To Talk To Your Child About Traumatic World Events - By Chris Gearing

Monday, March 28, 2011

How To Effectively Explain World Events To Your Child - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

With the tsunamis in Japan and the bombings in Libya, American children are witnessing images of tragic events across the globe.

So how aware are children of these tragic events?

Even though an ocean away, today’s child is more media savvy and more aware of tragic events than any of us wants to believe. These images of tsunamis and bombings, if too frequent and too vivid, feed the anxiety and can be highly disruptive for a child. Children lack the cognitive and emotional skills to regain perspective. But instead of telling you they’re worried, they often prefer to dwell on these events in their minds privately.

Parents need to remember that kids are also more anxious than previous generations and separation anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and social anxiety are increasingly prevalent in kids.

Studies of over 12,000 kids show that anxiety has increased substantially among children over the last forty years. The average American child in the 1980s reported more anxiety than child psychiatric patients in the 1950s.

Keep in mind that younger kids cannot differentiate between what is real and what is imagined and what is currently happening and what is in the past. They look at things literally, as if they are happening right now. We know that traumatic events that are directly experienced or indirectly witnessed (like watching repeated images of the tsunamis) have a much more profound effect on young kids than on older children. Younger kids who experience trauma are at particular risk because of their rapidly developing brains—they just cannot process the world as logically as teens and adults.

After trauma, kids can have compromised language, memory issues, processing difficulties and emotional regulation problems. They cannot use words effectively to deal with the stress and may even magically blame themselves for the misfortune. They may become more sensitive to frightening visual images, loud noises, violent scenes and unpredictable events.

In addition, horrific scenes can impact a child at a fundamental level through a phenomenon called secondary trauma. Trauma indirectly experienced through a firsthand account or narrative of a traumatic event, can impact them deeply and their anxiety can increase. The brain does not differentiate between what is real and what is imagined, especially in children. The world suddenly doesn’t feel safe anymore. If you are anxious, you are going to dwell on the predictability of future danger so these vivid images stoke the “fires” of loss of control and imminent harm.

So if you are a worried parent, look for an increased needs for reassurance, intrusive repetitive worrying and thoughts, refusal to take appropriate risks or tackle age appropriate challenges, obsession with frightening natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes, nightmares and clinging behavior.

Anytime your child experiences strong negative emotions, you need to view this as a prime opportunity to teach them about emotion and how to handle themselves when they’re upset.

Acknowledge the child’s distress through careful listening and empathy. Recognize his fear and reassure the child that he is just fine.

Most of all, teach your child how to calm down since the ability to self soothe is a key to handling himself in the world. Remaining calm when there is adversity is valuable in remaining obedient in the classroom, making friends and following directions at home.

Ground Them in Reality by reminding them that they are safe and protected. However, this is also a great opportunity to demonstrate empathy by looking for online or community activities that can help these countries work through a difficult time. Being a good citizen in the world is as important as being a good person at home.

How To Talk To Your Kids About Catastrophic Events - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing explain how to talk to your kids about catastrophic events like the disaster in Japan and the bombing in Libya

Click here.

Are Some Dolls Too Sexy? - By Chris Gearing

Friday, March 18, 2011

Watch Dr. Sylvia discuss whether some children's dolls are too sexy.

Click here.

How To Keep Your Marriage From Becoming Predictable - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discussing how to keep your marriage from becoming predictable.

Click here.

Why People Lose Interest After Getting Married - By Chris Gearing

Monday, March 14, 2011

Marriage is a union most of us enter into with the best of intentions. But despite our best efforts, many of us lose interest in our spouse and the marriage can become boring and predictable.

So, why do so many marital partners lose interest in their spouses?

The Cuddle Chemical: You may have a chemical problem since we know that spouses who have been together for some time decrease their production of those hormones that stir passion and desire. Instead, your brain begins to produce more oxytocin, which is called the companionable, or cuddle chemical.

Separate Worlds: Many of us live in separate worlds that rarely intersect. We begin to redefine how we think of our partner—she becomes someone you pay bills with, mow the lawn with and the person you execute all the other mundane tasks of life with. You no longer think of your spouse as the one person who “gets you. ”

Arguments that Go Nowhere: The lack of conflict resolution drives many people away from the marriage into disinterest and disconnection. If you can’t repair arguments and you can’t build consensus, you’re left with one thing—isolation. Negativity tends to envelope the marriage. Chronic helplessness begins to define how you think about the relationship and you become indifferent and even bored with your partner.

A Lack of Emotional Skills: A lot of people lack fundamental skills in handling emotions—they don’t recognize feelings in themselves or their spouse, they don’t know how to reach out to their partner or even how to calm down when they’re angry or disappointed. As a result, their spouse feels lonely, frustrated and misunderstood.

Does physical intimacy have anything to do with partners becoming dissatisfied in the marriage?

We know that while sex is important to a marriage, it is not nearly as important as many people think. The real issue is how each partner thinks about the physical intimacy-- whether they are feeling rejected or desired and whether they feel that their partner understands their needs and is willing to compromise. Happy couples create an intimacy life that works for each person—in terms of intensity, style and frequency.

We've all heard of it -- but is there really a seven-year itch?

There absolutely is a seven-year itch but it is more likely to begin in the fifth year of marriage. By then, the couple should have figured out how to be married--how to handle money, in-laws, sex etc. If you haven’t figured things out, you’re much more likely to be fighting about it at the five year mark and then divorcing at the seven year mark. Remember that after the birth of the first baby, marital satisfaction drops significantly for 2/3 of the couples. If you never resolve those problems and remain married, after twenty years your marriage will most likely be characterized by a chronic lack of intimacy and closeness that causes the marriage to erode and then end suddenly.

If you're worried, here are some suggestions to help you recover that lovin' feeling

See Your Friends: One of the best tips I can give couples is to spend a lot of time with some really good friends. A recent study shows that dating couples who hang out with great couple friends who are happily married wind up feeling closer to each other.

Use What Worked Before: Review what activities brought you together in the first place and recreate them. Return to the music, the movies and even the food that you enjoyed as you courted each other.

Seek Adventures Together: Shake things up by exploring the world together, learning new skills and traveling. The endorphins your brain creates when you’re having fun enhances attraction.

Watch Your Tone: How you say something matters as much as what you say. Watch your tone and always try to “volley” back when he tries to engage you. An enthusiastic, warm reply is so much better than a clipped, matter of fact "hi" or “you again!”

Touch Often and Well: Touch has been called the mother of the senses. Reigniting passion relies heavily on touch. Human skin is incredibly sensitive so even the slightest grazing of the skin has a seductive effect.

Avoid Negativity: Time together is sacred so avoid dwelling on angry thoughts, past arguments or excessive worrying when you’re together. Nothing is worse than being with someone who is complaining or obsessing.

Battle Hymn of the Western Mother - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A recent best selling book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, illustrates how fundamental parenting strategies can be so violently misunderstood. Written by an Asian American Yale Law School professor, Amy Chua, the book argues that western mothers are undisciplined, over gratifying and only care about their children’s individuality. She predicts that most western children never reach their potential and live a directionless life of non-achievement.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Here are the myths perpetuated by the author followed by reality:

Myth: Parental Authority is Supreme

The premise is that children require micromanaging and constant direction that includes fear based parenting. Chua argues that kids are unable to grow without being controlled. The mother must be in the middle of their lives and has the final word, always.

Reality:

When kids are over-controlled by a parent, they learn to deny their own wisdom and intuition. Often, they become great achievers but are stunted emotionally. To survive a controlling parent, you learn to focus on the parent’s perceptions of you instead of your own thoughts. You miss the vital lessons of taking calculated risks in relationships, achievement etc. and then recalibrating your behavior based on what happiness.

Myth: All That Matters is Compliance

The child is an extension of the mother and must be commandeered into compliance. Nothing matters but the outcome and the child must blame only himself if the goal is not achieved.

Reality:

When you are over controlled, you over-emphasize how you are perceived by others. You pursue activities that will result in high achievement, praise and applause from others. However, you pay an enormous price for this. You don’t learn the basic tenants of emotional intelligence that can only be mastered by years of having a separate experience from your mother where you figure things out for yourself.

Myth: Nothing Matters More to Child’s Future than Achievement

Chua conjectures that all that matters in the world is achievement that in turn, honors the sacrifice of the parents. The parent’s duty is to financially facilitate opportunities that they choose for the child.

Reality:

Achievement creates self-esteem, but there are many valuable ways to define what achievement is. Emotional stability based on a well-developed and accurate view of yourself is invaluable in the world. Navigating the world without emotional stability is like sailing on a ship without a rudder and a compass--you could end up shipwrecked before you know it. Childhood should equip children with the following capabilities:

Failure: The ability to fail and bounce back from a setback

Self-management: A willingness to disappoint authority figures if you disagree with them

Decisiveness: Making the best call with the information you have even if you discover later you were incorrect

Understanding of Others: Emotional perceptiveness of others based on your own keen understanding of yourself

Self-confidence: Kids build an inner strength from thousands of experiences in which they made a decision on their own, self corrected and did better the next time.

Self-effectiveness: This is an essential part of managing in the world since it’s hard to assert yourself if you see yourself as ineffective and helpless.

Myth: Verbally Berating A Child Is Helpful

Chua argues that kids must be threatened to perform, which is the top goal in her parenting model. Calling a child, “lazy, cowardly, self indulgent and pathetic” somehow is motivating according to the author. She justifies her strategy by the achievements of her kids—if she hadn’t verbally assaulted them, she predicts they wouldn’t have achieved.

Reality:

There is no psychological research in the world that supports verbal humiliation, name-calling and threats as a viable parenting technique. The constant contempt of a parent out of control is damaging. The younger the child, the greater the emotional damage.

Myth: Parents Should Micromanage their Children’s Emotions

In Chua’s paradigm, there is minimal instruction in handling the inner dialogue in our heads that all children have. That inner dialogue doesn’t matter since it’s not something Chua is thinking.

Reality:

Longitudinal research shows that emotionally dismissed kids grow into adults who cannot articulate what they feel or how to manage it. They are often exquisitely sensitive to others, since they had to be that strong to survive in childhood. They tuck their feelings away and they dismiss their normal reactions. She insists that the child should meet the parents’ demands since they know better. Focusing on the parent handicaps the child’s need to measure his own reactions, learn to manage his own behavior and monitor his reactions.

Myth: No External Activities

This model of parenting rejects the usual features of Western childhood—weekend sleepovers, play dates, TV, video game, choosing their own extracurricular activities, and any grade less than an A. The child must conform, at all times, to the desires of the parent.

Reality:

Childhood is an extended practice arena for adulthood during which the child learns how to effectively communicate, to navigate conflict and to fail and bounce back. Parents need to provide the optimum environment for these skills by helping the child learn about himself and his own interest.

Myth: Western Mothers Are Slackers And Over-Indulge Their Children To Meet Their Own Needs.

Western mothers are relentlessly devoted to their children and buffer them against all forms of stress, adversity and failure.

Reality:

America has been the strongest country in the world for generations due, in part, to the work ethic and fortitude of American mothers.

We have taught our children how to fight against their fears, how to join with others against tyranny and how to accord all Americans the same civil liberties and rights. Such virtues require enormous courage and strength which are found in a people reared to define themselves as individuals, not as extensions of others. Obedience to authority at all costs, which Ms. Chua celebrates, can only get you so far. Our dedication to individuality, independence and creative thinking built this country and will continue to shape the world.

Battle Hymn of the Western Mother - Eastern vs Western Mothers - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Western Mother - No External Activities - By Chris Gearing

Monday, March 07, 2011

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