Therapy That Works...

Sex Comes Faster For Couples Who Text - By Chris Gearing

Monday, February 21, 2011

Technology seems to be redefining how couples get together. A survey released last week suggests that new couples get intimate faster because of e-mails, texts and other high-tech ways to communicate.

Here are three reasons why technology has such an influence:

Men Love Flirting: Men find flirtatious women irresistible and will often choose a highly flirtatious woman over a more physically attractive woman. Men really love a woman who can handle herself in a conversation whether it’s digitally communicated or face-to-face. Fifty eight percent of men said flirting on Facebook, G-chat and texting helped them become intimate sooner.

Women Love to Feel Connected: Texting keeps a woman feeling constantly connected which is the elixir of love for women. Nearly 80 percent of texting women said their relationships lead to sex more quickly because it was so easy for them to stay connected to their beaus. Texting provides the attention, the emotional familiarity and the sense of interest that women need to feel before they are physically intimate.

Texting Feeds Desire: The bottom line is that texting is the modern form of sexual seduction. Texting feeds the desire necessary for sexual interest and builds the intrigue. You have more opportunities to be humorous, less inhibited and spontaneous. People will say things in a text that they would never have the courage to say in person.

So does texting build a false sense of intimacy?

Absolutely it does since there is no way you can build an emotionally intimate relationship without putting in the “face time.” Chatting with someone through a text relationship keeps things superficial and fun, but such activities only provide an artificial sense of intimacy. Real relationships require real time contact. There is no substitute for being with someone in person—seeing, hearing, touching, even dancing with the person--that gives you a comprehensive and accurate view of who the other person really is. More to the point, you need to experience how you feel being with them in person to see if they relationship has a future.

Now could texting actually lead us to make a bad choice in a new relationship?

Deliberate Misrepresentation: You can get yourself in serious trouble if you over rely on technology since it allows people to misrepresent themselves. The person looks more clever, more patient and more honest then they really might be. They control the content and the flow of the conversation, which plays to the advantage of highly manipulative people.

Fantasy Relationships: In some cases, there can be outright harm to people who get involved too quickly with someone who they really don’t know. Some text-based relationships are entirely invented or highly spun. To become sexually intimate with someone who is really misleading you is devastating psychologically.

Staying Power of Love: There is a cardinal rule in new relationships—falling in love requires repeated face-to-face encounters. You must see each other routinely to become really invested. There is no substitute for the art of flirtation—the arch of an eyebrow or the wind in his hair. Having fun together, sharing experiences, and even facing adversity build a solid sense of commitment and undying loyalty. We find that these text-based relationships explode in passion but lack the staying power for long-term love.

So how can you use technology safely in a new relationship?

Don’t Substitute Technology for True Intimacy: Do not substitute technology for a real relationship since you can get burned easily. Remember that texting is a preview of seduction and foreplay but it is not a replacement for “in person” seduction and foreplay that is part of the relationship dance.

Slow Down: Make sure that you keep your own feelings under control when you are flirting via text. Don’t confuse arousal with real relating. Too many people jump in without knowing where they are going. Slow down and date for a while before you commit your heart.

Source: The Denver Post

Battle Hymn of the Western Mother - Parental Authority - By Chris Gearing

Monday, February 21, 2011

Is Your Teen Ready For College? - By Chris Gearing

Monday, December 27, 2010

Is Your Teen Ready For College? - By Chris Gearing

Sunday, December 26, 2010

As America’s teens are applying to college this fall, millions of parents are wondering if their children are ready for the transition to college.

So, do they have something to worry about?

Most neurophysiologists report now that the changes taking place in the teenage brain are profound. The teenage brain is like a house that’s in the process of being built—there is a steady building of neurological connections that create an often subtle but revolutionary refinement in self-control and judgment. There can be a stark difference between a 17 year old and an 18 year old. Their emotional maturity can literally take place in just a few weeks or months.

Here are a few things I would recommend for parents:

Remain Involved: The main issue is what kind of input parents will have at such a profound and intense time of maturity. Even though they’ve gone to college, you should still be involved. You’re still their parent, teacher, and advisor!

Consequences For Life: We know that kids are extremely vulnerable to experiences—good and bad—during this pivotal time. What the child experiences is encoded much more intensely in late adolescence, and parents need to be very mindful of what they allow their teenagers to do.

Caution Around Substance Abuse: Be very cautious teaching your child about drugs and alcohol. Realistically, they will encounter drugs and alcohol at college – they need to know what do. The teen years can be a devastating time for the brain to be exposed to drugs and alcohol since it is still developing. Be very careful, parents.

Now when parents in my practice ask me about their children going to college, I always ask them one question – “are they emotionally intelligent and mature?”

Emotional maturity is a central life-skill – it can literally make the difference between success and failure at college. Here are some areas of emotional intelligence that you should evaluate:

  • Risk Aversion and Impulse Control
  • The Ability to Self Sooth Appropriately (with exercise, conversation, or distractions like music or movies)
  • The Ability to Self-Correct and to Remain Self-Aware
  • Skills in Self-Regulation such as time management, organization and persistence in task completion.
  • The Capacity to Identify Emotions In Others Accurately
  • The Ability to Understand the Complexity of Emotions and Motivations

Eat, Pray, and Love From Home - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Eating, Praying, and Loving From Home

How To Have A Journey Of Self-Discovery On A Budget

By Dr Sylvia Gearing

With the release of the movie, “Eat. Pray. Love.” this past weekend, millions of Americans witnessed the journey of a woman’s self-discovery through the countries of Italy, India, and Indonesia. But in this tough economy, not everyone can spend a year living, laughing, and loving abroad. Not to fret – if you’re looking for a quest akin to Elizabeth Gilbert’s amazing saga, there’s plenty you can accomplish right here at home.

Remember that the Point of the Quest is to Find Yourself, Your Beliefs and Your Soul Mate

FINDING YOURSELF THROUGH PHYSICAL PLEASURES:

Your body is the temple of your soul and is extremely important in any journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. The body, your center for “worldly pleasures,” is stimulated by the five major physical senses – taste, touch, sight, smell, and sound.

Taste and Pleasurable Eating:

Did you know that we have over 10,000 taste buds, but taste is the weakest of the senses? In an age of fast food and 80-hour workweeks, we don’t take the time to really savor our food.

Here’s How to Use Taste:

  • Slow down, sit down and calm down when you eat!
  • Eating should be a relaxing, sumptuous and even sensuous experience.
  • Try fresh foods from farmers markets or preparing your own food from simple, international recipes. You don’t have to be a gourmet chef to cook gourmet food!

Touch and Tactile Experiences:

Touch is an undervalued sense but it’s extremely important to pleasure.

Here’s How to Use Touch:

  • Buy Clothing: Sensual lingerie, soft, flowing clothing, silky bed sheets, plush throws, and plump pillows are comforting and enticing.
  • Pet The Dog: Don’t forget to cuddle up to your cat or dog—they are great sources of nurturing.
  • Get A Massage: Nothing relaxes people more than being touched. Hire an expert and indulge yourself.

Sight and Visual Experiences:

Have you ever been to a place that just clicked with your sense of style? Maybe the Coliseum or your childhood home, visual beauty is enchanting for all of us. Surround yourself with beautiful colors, textures and arrangements.

Here’s How to Use Sight:

  • Take the Time to Notice: Nurturing visual experiences are everywhere—a sunset, a stunning candle in your bedroom, a gracious moonlit night, the drape of a towel on a chair, or even the colors of your favorite flowers.
  • Take the Time to See: All of your world can be visually savored if you just take the time to notice and acknowledge the beauty right in front of you.
  • Bring Beauty To You: Take some time and assemble your personal list of beauty—candles, soaps, china, crystal, pictures of travel destinations, favorite pieces of art, pictures of your friends and family, flowers, etc.

Sense of Smell and Aromas:

Smell is the number one sense tied to memory and it really makes an impression – whether it’s the sweet scent of your mother’s cookies in the oven or the smell of cedar burning on a cold night.

Here’s How to Use Smell:

  • Burn lightly scented candles for your meals, your relaxation time and “just because.”
  • Bring highly fragrant flowers to your office
  • Use your own special perfume or cologne as your personal scent signature.

Hearing and Sound:

Pleasurable sounds are stimulating for your mind. Brain scans show that music—in particular—stimulates certain pleasure areas of the brain and lowers anxiety.

Here’s How to Use Sound:

  • Relax or meditate to natural sounds like the ocean tide or thunderstorms.
  • Listen to music all the time, whether it’s Beethoven or Lady Gaga. Music enhances any ordinary experience – whether it’s cleaning the house, talking to your friends or working out.
  • Sing loudly. Anxiety diminishes enormously when we’re belting out our favorite tunes.

FINDING YOUR BELIEFS THROUGH SPIRITUAL PRACTICES:

Spirituality asks the most important questions about life—why we’re here, why things happen, and where God is in all of this. Spiritual practice, irrespective of which religion you use, nurtures the most of important parts of ourselves—our minds, our hearts and our souls.

Here’s How to Enhance Your Spiritual Self:

Stillness and Thought:

An essential first step is mastery of some sort of meditation or self-reflection – whether it be through prayer, meditation techniques, long thoughtful walks, centering yoga, deep breathing exercises, or even just quiet time! Shut off your cell phone, exit your e-mail, and close your laptop for even an hour a day and ground yourself with one of these practices.

Attend to the Now:

Be present in every single moment of your life and live in the now – I call this “mindfulness.” This may sound a little “Zen” of me, but it really works. Give your anxiety a break, and suspend your thoughts while you focus on what is right in front of you. Combine the mindfulness mindset with the above steps for stillness and meditation for a real “one-two” punch of spirituality.

The Sound of Silence:

Silence leads to self-discovery and to understanding someone else. Silence lets you think effectively. Silence allows the world to pour into you while you contemplate, rather than react, to events. It is the elixir of creativity and perspective.

Gratitude and Reverence:

Experience your life with a true sense of gratitude and reverence for the things around you – whether it’s for your kids, your partner, your job or for the many blessings in your life. Viewing life through the lens of gratitude leads to higher levels of optimism, hope, and plain old happiness.

Acts of Altruism:

Try doing something fun and then try doing something altruistic. Studies show that you will remember your acts of altruism longer and more fondly than the “fun times.” In fact, selfless giving to others can even make you happier over the long haul.

FINDING YOUR SOUL MATE:

Soul mates come in different packages—a sister, a best friend, or a lover. Now, with your physical and spiritual sides in balance, you’re ready to share your world with someone else in an effective, intelligent way. By balancing your physical and the spiritual selves, you’re more discerning, less needy with others and more perceptive about what you need from anyone that walks in and out of your life.

Your combination of the worldly and the spiritual perspectives prepares you to define a relationship on both shared and individual terms. You have to nurture your physical self and embrace your spiritual self to fully experience and love another person.

Here’s How to Find Your Soul Mate:

Maintain Boundaries!:

Elizabeth Gilbert observed (rather wryly) that as she visited the ninth generation medicine man in Bali, she didn’t want to ask him about the meaning of life or what happens after we die. Instead, all she could think to ask about were her “boy troubles.” A common misstep is to let our relationships carry us away, and we end up leaving ourselves behind! Define yourself as an individual first—both physically and spiritually before you step into a relationship!

Shared Terms:

Women are so programmed all our lives to orbit around the needs of others—“accept me and I will do anything for you!” That kind of thinking was great two hundred years ago, but our new world requires self-sufficiency AND interdependence. We have to love him and leave him everyday to become ourselves in our jobs, our roles and our minds. But at the end of the day, we come home to him relaxed, refueled, and ready for intimacy.

The Golden Rule:

The great Greek philosophers taught that there was one golden rule for life – balance, in all things. Balance in our work, in our consumption, and in our relationships. Maintain the balance between worldly pleasure, divine transcendence, and experiencing and loving those around you.

Your feet on the ground, your heart fully opened and your soul finely tuned will lead to wise choices, magical moments, and mastery of the art of exuberant living.

SOURCES

Dr. Martin Seligman on TED.com

“Practicing Gratitude Can Increase Happiness by 25%” on PsyBlog (http://www.spring.org.uk/2007/09/practicing-gratitude-can-increase.php)

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.

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.

Parental Alienation At The Holidays - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Parental Alienation During The Holidays

Dr. Sylvia Gearing

TXA 21 News, Dec 17, 2009

During the holidays, millions of children from divorced families will be spending time with their parents separately. But what happens when a parent engages in parental alienation--a systematic campaign to discredit the other parent and alienate the child?

Parental alienation is becoming a major 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 alienate the child’s affections toward the other parent or toward a grandparent. It is most prevalent in child custody cases and it is worse at the holidays as parents have increased access to their children.

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

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.” (Richard Warshak, Ph.D.)

Legitimized by Self Absorbed Culture: Most divorces involve pain and suffering and parental alienation flourishes in a family culture of dissent and conflict. However, the epidemic of narcissism that has defined our country in recent years legitimizes winning at any cost. Savage and unethical behavior is justified even if it involves waging war against an innocent party.

Parents engage in parental alienation because of the following reasons:

Revenge: There are complex reasons to explain this behavior but all explanations boil down to one principle reason. People receive secondary gain from inflicting pain on people they believe have wronged them. The mind of the child becomes the battlefield for revenge.

Child is Perceived as a Possession: For some parents, adequate boundaries with their children are absent. They child is perceived as an extension of themselves. They inflict parental alienation on the other parent to banish him or her so they can have the child to themselves.

Compensating for Inadequacy and Guilt: Parents may try to resolve their low self-esteem and sense of failure by reinforcing their belief that they are the best parent. Posturing as the superior parent makes them feel better even if it is at the expense of their child. They have no conscience about the suffering of the child and the other parent.

Children suffer from parental alienation in the following ways:

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, such division can last for years.

Contempt, Rejection and Disrespect: They show contempt, rejection, and disrespect for the targeted parent. These comments are often irrational, insulting and traumatizing to the targeted parent.

Rehearsed Answers: They have been taught to orient to the controlling needs of the alienating parent at all costs. They are often unable to specify why they dislike the targeted parent or they exaggerate faults of their parent to justify their rejection. Their 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.

Parents can protect themselves and their children by taking the following steps:

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 (see below).

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.

For more information on Dr. Sylvia please go to www.gearingup.com

Resources:

"Divorce Poison," Dr. Richard Warshak

"The Custody Revolution," by Dr. Richard Warshak

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

The Quarter-Life Crisis - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Dealing With The 'Quarter' Life Crisis

August 13, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

The twenties have traditionally been a time of establishing careers, marriages and financial independence. But in the current economic climate, psychologists are now reporting that today’s 20’somethings are struggling with epidemic levels of anxiety and depression. You may be wondering why it is so difficult for twenty-somethings in today’s economy.

There are several reasons why it is so much more difficult.

  • Affected by Economy: Young people in their twenties are experiencing brutal disappointment as they encounter a job market that is challenging for even the veteran employee. The economy is denying them access to entry- level jobs filled by more senior workers. Credit card debt, low pay, college loans and lack of opportunity are all common challenges. Such a collision of expectation with reality can lead to depression and disappointment.
  • Treading Water: Ambitious 20’somethings expected that their education would count for something. Those doors to greater opportunity are now remaining shut. Their twenties are becoming a series of disappointments rather than achievements or enlightening experiences. They move from job to job hoping for something better.
  • Longer Dependence on Parents: Today’s young person experiences a much lengthier transition from college to full financial and logistical emancipation due to education and financial hurdles. College typically lasts more than four years and may extend into six to seven years with graduate education.
  • Lack of Success Leads to Hopelessness: Such experiences build a sense of hopelessness, helplessness and even irresponsibility that can severely affect both their sense of effectiveness and their ability to activate in the present to achieve.

Parents often ask me if their 20’somethings have entered the working world with unrealistic expectations of success and why has it occurred? Here’s my usual response:

They absolutely have grown up with loftier expectations for themselves and the current economic logjam is an unwelcome challenge. Here are the core values of many members of this generation:

  • Mandated Happiness: Reared in a culture that taught them to feel good about themselves regardless of effort, fault or outcome, 20’somethings do not deal well with emotional discomfort. As a result, they tend to vacillate between two extremes – blaming everyone else and blaming themselves unfairly. Neither extreme is an accurate reflection of reality. Worst of all, such thinking does not allow them to improve. They remain stuck and indecisive.
  • Focus on Individuality: Individuality at any cost is a core value. Tattoos, piercings, and flattering pictures of themselves on social networking sites constantly update their fascinating lives.
  • Focus on Self Admiration: 20’somethings love to admire themselves. Eighty percent of recent college students scored higher in self-esteem than the average 1960s student. Worst of all, narcissism has risen as much as obesity and both are now epidemic. According to research, 10% of 20’somethings have already experienced symptoms of extreme self-centeredness. This trend is especially true for girls.

Those same parents then ask me if they had anything to do with why their children turned out this way.

Boomers definitely overshot the mark in their attempts to rear high self-esteem kids. “Over-parenting” and “helicopter parenting” are pervasive and this new generation has been cultivated, protected and praised too much. Suffering the consequences of your own bad decisions teaches you to be disciplined and to work harder. When kids are not taught the value of failure, sacrifice and altruism, they can develop unrealistic views of what life has to offer them. When they encounter a tough economy or even lose a job, they lack the psychological resources to deal with the setbacks. No one taught them the art of self-recovery and resilience. They become depressed, anxious and angry.

If you’re a parent of a twenty-something, here are some things you can do to help them in their time of need:

  • Cultural Overload: Realize that your child is “swimming” upstream against a culture that emphasizes instant gratification, connection and celebrity! Body image, body hugging clothes and achievement without earning it are values of our culture. Have some compassion for your struggling child but emphasize the lack of reality in our narcissistic culture.
  • Lessons of Failure: Emphasize in your own life and in your conversations with your 20’something your values of perseverance, self-discipline and the lessons of failure. Don’t lecture but build a bridge of disclosure and mentoring. Most of all stop rescuing and let them learn consequence.
  • Hardship is Temporary: Remind your 20’something that setbacks are rarely permanent and always manageable. The worst outcomes occur when people descend into negativity or simply stop trying. The choice to move forward against adversity is ever present and life determining.

Sources:

The Washington Post

“Emerging Adulthood” by Jeffrey Jensen Arnett

“The Narcissism Epidemic” by Dr. Jean Twenge, Ph. D. and Dr. W. Keith Campbell, Ph. D.

“Generation Me” by Dr. Jean Twenge, Ph. D.

Teen Sleep Crisis - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Teen Sleep Crisis: How Sleep Loss Causes Depression

June 11, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

Most of us as parents struggle with getting our teenagers to bed on time. Sports, school and socializing all postpone bedtime in a busy teen’s life but a major new study now reports that sleep loss can be dangerous. A new study of 15,000 teens sends some serious warnings to American parents.

This “just released” study from Columbia University is the first to examine the direct effect of sleep loss on the emotional health of an adolescent.

  • More Depression: Teens whose parents allow them to stay up past midnight on school nights are 42% more likely to be depressed than teens in bed by 10 P.M.
  • Suicidal Thinking: Less sleep can contribute to suicidal thinking. Kids who stay up late are 30% more likely to have suicidal thoughts in the past year.
  • Underestimates of Current Teen Distress: These statistics may underrate the severity of teen distress. With social networking sites and smart phones, kids are more active into the night and often refuse to comply with parental commands. It is easy to play on your iPhone into the next morning!

You may be wondering why lack of sleep is such a big deal for kids. There are a variety of problems when kids don’t get enough sleep:

  • Psychological Weakness: Kids who get less sleep are more impulsive, process their environment less accurately, become more helpless and descend into ineffectiveness.
  • Slippage of Grades: Academics are a huge problem for sleep-deprived kids — the less focus you have, the more distracted you are, and the less effectively you integrate new knowledge.
  • Loss of Emotional Stability: Even if they can tolerate sleep loss and still make grades, there is a psychological price that is paid in interpersonal diplomacy, regulation of emotions, and a general build up of frustration.
  • Obesity: Obesity is highly correlated with sleep loss. Teens are less likely to work out and eat moderately when they’re exhausted.
  • Driving Safety: Most fatal teen driving accidents involve sleep loss. Since kids need more sleep than adults, they are particularly vulnerable to carelessness on the road and falling asleep at the wheel.

There are a number of ways to get kids to go to sleep earlier. Here are a few ideas:

  • Eliminate Stimulants: Cut out the stimulants in kids’ lives, things like coffee, sodas and in some rare cases, amphetamines. They will go to bed earlier if they aren’t on a caffeine high!
  • Avoid Yo Yo Scheduling: Also, don’t allow your kids to do what is called “yo-yo scheduling” where they go to sleep late during the week and then go to sleep even later on the weekend! The lack of sleep on weekends has long standing effects on sleep patterns and melatonin levels, and kids often go back in to the work week more tired than they were on Friday!
  • Keep It Pleasant: Don’t engage in emotional conversations close to bedtime. Conflict interferes with regular sleep patterns and kids have a hard time settling down for the night.
  • If you want to know how to get your kids to sleep beyond these tips, the bad news is that there is no magic solution. There really is only one way to get your kids to bed:

    • Set Strong Limits: High school and college age kids average around 6.1 hours of sleep a night when they need 9.25 hours a night, on average. There is no way around it – parents must set stronger limits so their kids will sleep more! Your kids will have to experience that disappointment, but in the end you will also see improved performance both in the classroom and on the field.
    • Quick Emotional Benefits: Beyond the obvious benefits in school, adequate sleep can have a tremendous effect on your child’s mental health. Everything from mood to concentration to safety in the car can be improved. Even behavioral and academic problems can disappear with adequate amounts of sleep.

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