Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ten Tips for Talking to Kids about Child Sexual Abuse

The recent headline screams “Paterno Fired”, fans and alumni are shocked, outraged, and heartbroken at the news, that Joe Paterno, “Joe Pa” to many, coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions for decades, was released from his duties due to allegations that he failed to take appropriate action to address alleged sexual abuse of children by one of the long time members of his coaching staff.  Sandusky has been indicted on multiple counts of child sexual abuse, and the Happy Valley is in collective shock.  While many say that Paterno acted within the law, others maintain that he did not do the right thing and seemed to turn a blink eye. 

As we watch the news, again, in our faces, our kids are curious.  “Mom, why did they fire Coach Paterno?” “Dad, what is sexual assault?” and “Why did that man hurt those kids?” In a recent conversation with a friend, we discussed this issue, and he discuss how he turned this tragedy into an  opportunity to talk to his kids about child sexual abuse and doing the right thing.

Within the tragedy that surrounds this story, as parent, you can take the opportunity to talk to your kids, educate them about abuse, and teach them how to protect themselves and their friends if they encounter abusive behavior. (DISCLAIMER: Discussions with your child will differ based on their age, maturity level and comfort level. Do not give your child more information than they are ready to handle).

Ten Tips for Talking to Kids about Child Sexual Abuse:

 1. In explaining sexual abuse to your children, it is important to be clear, factual and brief. Speaking to children about sensitive sexual issues is difficult at best, and in this instance, keeping it short and sweet (KISS) is the rule of thumb.

2.  Give your children factual information about sexuality and appropriate behavior.  Teach them that nobody should touch their private parts, and about different roles of adults in their lives (i.e. a doctor may ask them to remove their shirt, but not the neighbor).  Be sure to use proper names for body parts and ensure that kids know what private parts are.

3.  Teach children that some actions are against the law, and that any sexual activity between an adult and a child is illegal.

2. Give your child time to express their feelings, concerns and as questions. Keeping the lines of communication open is a key. Let your child know that you are available to answer their questions or discuss their fears, even after the conversation is over. This is an opportunity to have a conversation that can open doors for your child to communicate with you.

3. While it is important for children to “not talk to strangers”, telling your kids this common rule is not enough. The troubling fact remains that most sexual abusers are known to their victims and their families.

4. Do not force your children to hug or kiss relatives when they are uncomfortable. Children need to develop their own comfort level with touch, and their own instincts to refrain from touch are important to honor.

5. Tell your children that they should never get into a car with an adult without your permission.

6.  Make an effort to know your children’s friends and their parents, teachers, coaches, clergy and other older kids and adults in their lives.  While this is important, be aware that many predators are close to their victim’s families.

7. If your child expresses discomfort with staying at someone’s house or visiting someone, listen to your child and honor their feelings. This is not to say that you should assume something is wrong, but parents should always be vigilant and aware of the older kids and adults in their child’s life.

 8. Tell your kids how to yell "Stop” and go tell an adult if anyone hurts or touches them inappropriately. In addition, showing them private parts, pornographic videos or photos is inappropriate and they should report this to a trusted adult immediately.  Instruct kids of who the adults are that they can tell and what they should report. Have them choose 3 or 4 adults that they trust so they know who to go to that will listen to their concerns.

 9. Tell your kids that if they observe someone hurting others, it’s ok to tell, and to yell “stop”. Teaching kids to stand up for themselves and others can help them feel more confident and can be a deterrent to becoming the victim of bullies.

 10.  Explain to children that some children and adults have a “touching problem” and explain that they need help so that they can stop touching. Refrain from explaining by calling it a “sickness”. Furthermore, teach children that people with these problems may try to get them to keep a secret and might even give them gifts, candy, video games, clothes, money threats of hurting family or telling others.

If you have been the victim of sexual abuse, you have concerns about your child, or you have any questions, you should ASK A PSYCHOLOGIST!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Special Guest Blogger: Things I Never Thought I Would Say to My Three Year Old

In February, our household grew exponentially, with the addition of my step-son, daughter in law, three year old Tristan, and one year old Colleen, two extra cats (making a total of FOUR four legged felines!) and a partridge in a pear tree. Life sure has changed, but I wouldn't trade it for the world!!! I am enjoying being a mum-mum of having a is a special guest blog by Tim....enjoy!!

When I was growing up I was told many things by my mother. Don’t touch the hot stove, don’t run with scissors, and stop making that face, or it will stick that way. On average I would have to say that most kids have heard that, or similar things as they were growing up. Those phrases heard through out your childhood, are what I consider a staple in our society; the very things I expected to be saying to my children.

 After many years my wife and I produced a child, a boy to be exact. Tristan is his name, and is very much like I was when I was a child. Doing the exact opposite of what you tell him to do, among a variety of other activities. Some activities are more dangerous than others obviously, but now I’m just rambling, on to the point.

One day I came into the living room from the kitchen to find my son on all fours trailing behind one of my cats. Much to my dismay, he had his nose right in the rear end of the cat. Of course you can imagine what ensued after that. Yep you guessed it “Get your nose out of the cats butt.” I said to him. He then looked up at me and asked,” Why? The cats smell each others butts.” I responded by telling him,” You’re not a cat.” We went back and forth for a few minutes then, I realized… I was arguing with a three year old. I quickly reminded him who was boss and told him that if he did it again he’d get a time out for it.

That was the beginning of a long line of things; I never thought I’d have to say to my three year old.

Timothy Louis is a 10 year Air Force veteran who recently relocated to the Newfoundland, PA area and is pursuing his Bachelor's Degree in Engineering. His essay "Things I Never Thought I Would Say to My Three Year Old" is a special to the Counseling Corner Blog. Hopefully it will become a regular feature!

Monday, September 12, 2011

September 11: 10 Years Later How to Live a Life Free of Fear

Terrorism is a sad fact of life for our generation. It has changed the way we think, the way we perceive our neighbors, how we travel, and how we live our everyday lives. How can you live a life free of fear?

On 9/11, our nation faced a serious and sobering truth: We are vulnerable to violence within our own borders. Terrorism is not just something that we see on the news, occurring in foreign countries. It's important to know that you can take control of your own fear, while remaining cautious and alert.

The best way you can conquer your fear is to arm yourself with knowledge and information. Next, some basic ways to be prepared and be alert will help you feel more secure. Preparing yourself for ANY emergency or disaster will help you feel more in control. And finally, a few simple strategies to help you relax and avoid focusing on fearful thoughts, can help you calm your fears when they arise.

Understand Terrorism and its Psychology

*The goal of terrorism is to create fear and terror in a nation’s population in order to achieve political goals. While we must be alert and aware of our surroundings, we cannot give in to the fear and hide. This will simply reinforce the terrorists goals and they win (and we KNOW that, as Americans, we don't like to lose!)

*It is true that a lot has changed in our country, and the world, following 9/11. Educate yourself about changes in security. Knowing why these changes have been made and how they can help keep us safe is important, so that you don't feel that we are having your rights taken away.

*Above all, it's important to realize that there are people whose job is to keep track of these threats and take action to foil terrorist plots. Indeed, most terrorists plans are foiled by vigilance and good detective work. People like us can help by being aware and reporting things that don't seem "right" to the proper authorities and local police.

Understand the Odds

*While you may be anxious and worry that you will be the victim of a terrorist attack, the actual risk is very small. You are more likely to be injured in a car accident than be the victim of an attack. Your energy should be focused on the present circumstance and safety doing everyday things such as driving and walking down the street.

*Be prepared for ALL emergencies. As we have seen in the last month, you can be exposed to a variety of crises, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding. Being prepared for any of the scenarios is important. Have an emergency plan to communicate with family and friends, stock up on extra food and water, have an ample supply of medicines, etc. This can greatly minimize your anxiety and help you take control.

Understand anxiety and how to decrease it

Here are some commonsense ways to handle anxiety:

*Make sure you get plenty of rest and sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to increased anxiety and increased caffeine intake, which can make you feel more anxious and jittery.

*Exercise has been shown to decrease anxiety and life your mood, and improve your overall health.

*Avoid excess sugar and caffeine.

*Take a relaxing warm bath.

*Practice meditation or deep breathing exercises...the body cannot have an anxiety attack if you are breathing deeply.

*Simplify your schedule and prioritize your responsibilities.

*Engage in activities you enjoy, sports, hobbies and spending time with friends and family can increase your positive emotions and decrase anxiety. (Go PHILLIES!)

*Talk to a friend. Talking can be one of the best ways to get "out of your head" and express how you are feeling.

While I can't guarantee that you will always be 100% worry-free, using the strategies I have shared can help decrease your level of anxiety and allow you to live without the deep fear that can accompany events such as 9/11. If you are having a difficult time coping, and don't know where to turn, ASK A PSYCHOLOGIST!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

September 11: 10 Years Later - Talking to Chidren about 9/11

Today's installment of Counseling Corner takes a look at how to talk to your children about September 11, and about terrorism in general.

As we, through this difficult and emotional week leading up to the 10th Anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sunday, please consider these important issues when interacting with our children.

1. Children may have no interest or little understanding of what is going on. Remember, that while 9/11 changed the world and the way we live in it, children under 10 have no frame of reference for this, and children under 5 probably don't have a clear memory of that day.  It has simply been the world they live in. Do not assume they know what the world was like pre-September 11, or what happened that day.

2.  Monitor what your child is watching on television and on the Internet. As always, be aware of what your child is watching on television or viewing on the Internet. You can set your DVR to pre-record newscasts so that you screen them for your children, and be prepared to answer questions about what they see. Better yet, turn off the tube for the week, and go do something fun with your kids! We can very easily get sucked back into watching the news stories and images all over again.

3. Find out what your child knows before talking about 9/11 or terrorism. We may assume that because it was such an earth-shattering event, that everyone knows about 9/11 and terrorism. Children may have knowledge about this, but assessing how much they know before giving them detailed information is critical. Moreover, what you tell them will depend on their age, maturity level, and knowledge.

4. Listen to your child and let him know you understand his feelings. Don't feel like you have to talk and talk, sometimes it is best to just sit and listen. Hearing scary stories and seeing violent images can cause children to feel fearful and can even cause nightmares. Listening to your child and letting them know you understand how they feel ("You seem to be afraid by what you heard. I will keep you safe").

5. Answer her questions. Children may have questions - even some questions we can't answer. Be honest, keep it simply, and use accurate but non-emotional or violent language. If you don't know the answer, say so. You don't have to know it all.

6. Keep to routines and schedules. Kids need routines and need to know what to expect. Even though this week may contain special events, or telecasts, it's important to keep the focus at home.  Allowing children to watch their normal television shows, helping with homework and keeping to set bedtimes is important in developing a sense of safety and security.

7.  Allow children to be children!  Gt your children outside to play, run and get out excess energy. As a general rule, not just this week, kids need physical exercise and to develop play skills, teamwork, sharing and imagination. Exercise can also help with sleep and decrease anxiety. Limit television to a few favorite, appropriate shows.

8. Let your son or daughter know that they are safe. Children need to feel safe and secure. Reassure them that you will keep them safe from harm and will worry about those bad things, so they dont' have to. Sometimes, just a hug can help children feel secure and loved.

9. If your child is having nightmares, is fearful  to leave the house, or is otherwise having difficulties, and you don't know what to do, ASK A PSYCHOLOGIST!

The link below will take you to a video starring Linda Ellerbee called “What Happened? The Story of September 11, 2001.” and aired on YouTube and Nickelodeon website to address children and explaining what happened on 9/11. This video was created through a partnership between Nickelodeon and the American Psychological Association. Please note how this video gives an honest and clear explanation of the event, but also focuses on the positives, those saved, and the spirit of the New Yorkers on that day.

You can view the Press Release discussing the video as well as the video below. (Clicking this link will take you away from Counseling Corner).

Monday, September 5, 2011

September 11: 10 Years Later

As we approach the 10th Anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and Shanksville, we will reflect on what happened on that tragic day, and remember. This will involve a renewed focus on the video footage of the planes hitting the Towers. Indeed, in watching television yesterday, I was reminded of the shocking moment of impact. It made me very sad, but also aware that I have not been so jaded that it no longer had an effect.

As we look back, from a psychological perspective, we must take into account several things.

1) Many of our children are too young to remember, and are seeing it for the first time. They may have questions, feel scared, and rely on YOU, as their parents and caregivers, to provide an explanation, assurance and safety.
2) Terrorism is a fact of life for our generation. It has changed the way we think, the way we perceive our neighbors, how we travel, and how we live our everyday lives.  How can you live a life free of fear?
3) Many of those who witnessed the attacks, even on television, have suffered a traumatic reaction. What is Post Traumatic Stress and how can it be treated?

As we embark on this emotional week, let's reflect, remember, and learn. I hope you will follow my blog this week and that you find something helpful in it.  As always, if you or someone you know needs help, ASK A PSYCHOLOGIST.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Guest Blog: Autism from a Mother's Perspective

This is a special guest blog by a good friend who has a son diagnosed with Autism. She has agreed to share her story:

When I was asked me to write something about having a son with autism, I agreed, though, now its hard putting into words what I need to express.   My son, Ralphie, was 3 when he was diagnosed with Autism. The reason we had him evaluated that he wasn't speaking. If he wanted something he "grunted!" I think the words will haunt my mind forever: The doctor just sitting there, saying those words, like he was stating the weather. He showed NO emotion. The thoughts that ran through my mind.."MY SON..MY ONLY SON".

Let me go back a minute: When I found out I was pregnant, with a boy..I was beyond thrilled!! A son..I always dreamed of having a son, now that dream was coming true!!  The doctor that diagnosed Ralphie, told us (in the flattest tone), that "our boy was never going to be normal..never walk right, never talk, forget all the "normal" things"!! Can you imagine??? I couldn't either!

I can't begin, to tell you, the amount of money (thank GOD for insurance), and the time we spent taking Ralphie to therapist, after therapist, after therapist!! Now, don't get me wrong, I am not complaining about it. I praise those therapists, for all they gave Ralphie A CHANCE...

For me..the day that Ralphie looked-up at me, and called me..MOM..was...How do explain to anyone what it was like? Tears still stream down my face when I recall this. My baby boy, who never would talk, said the doctor, called me MOM!!

We had to fight the school system to get Ralphie the education he needed. They wanted to just "throw" him in Special Education. To clap his hands and sing songs. Come on, is that for real? He needed to be part of the classes, and learn just as other "normal" children learned!!

Needless to say we got what Ralphie needed. Yes, he had a parent pro go with him to many of his classes. And yes, he did go to Special Education, classes when he needed it.

Today my baby boy, 17, is a man. He is in the 10th grade and is doing great on his own!!!   He walks, and talks just like the other kids, and at times even needs to be told to shut-up. Not one person can explain to me, what "normal" is - Ralphie may not do all the "normal" things a 17 year old does, but that does not make him "not normal"?

People talk of finding a "cure".  IF there was a "pill, or cure", for Autism, WOULD I NOT LOOSE THE RALPHIE THAT IS HERE IN FRONT OF ME????  Not all "cures" are solutions. .People want to "cure" autism, cause they cant "deal" with what was dealt them.  GOD gave us these children for a reason..what that reason is, I'M not sure, but, when I look at Ralphie I see "normal".  With all the things that I've seen in this world, Ralphie is as "NORMAL", as they come!

I will always wonder if it was my fault that Ralphie turned out this way.  Not a single person can change my mind on this one thing:  I will only say I was BLESSED with what I have!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

What every parent needs to know about Autism Part 2

This is Part 2 of a 4 part series spotlighting National Autism Awareness Month

Autism is one of the five Pervasive Developmental Disorder, which is in a group of Disorders that are referred to as Disorders Usually Diagnosed in Infancy, Childhood, and Adolescence listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, (DSM-IV).  Autism is normally diagnosed in childhood, and early detection and intervention are an important key to a favorable prognosis.

If you have met one child with Autism, you have met one child with Autism.

Autism can appear very different in each child. In spite of the stereotypical portrayal of individuals with Autism in the popular media (Rain Man), each person is just that, a person.  In working with children and adults with Autism and other Intellectual and Developmental Disorders, I have learned the importance of what is called "person-first" language.  For example, saying "that autistic girl", one would say "my neighbor Sally likes to watch movies, and she has Autism".  In this way, a diagnosis of Autism, or anything else (i.e. Schizophrenia, Depression) does not define the person.  After all, you would not say "My Republican neighbor" or "My black haired neighbor" because these are simply characteristics of those people and do not define their identity. 

Some common issues that are present in most individuals with Autism are difficulties with communication, social skills, and restricted interests and repetitive patterns of behavior. The Autism Speaks website features a Video Glossary that is designed to provide professionals and families with video representations of children of varying ages, both typically developing and with Autism. This Glossary helps depict early red flags and diagnostic features of Autism. The Glossary can be found at the following link:

Co-Occurring Disorders

Estimates are that up to 75% of those with Autism also have Intellectual Disabilities. In addition to Intellectual Disabilities, those with Autism are often faced with co-occurring depression, OCD, anxiety and trauma. These are often untreated and can contribute to difficulties in social and work settings. Individuals with Autism and other disabilities are also at great risk for abuse and neglect.

Treatment and intevention: initial issues
It is important that treatment have the following characteristics:

1) Treatment needs to begin early.  As soon as you believe your child may have delays in any area, see a pediatrician or developmental psychologist immediately. The sooner intervention can begin, the better;
2) Treatment needs to be a team approach. Family, teachers, psychologists, and other professionals (occupational therapist, speech therapist, physical therapist, etc), need to be involved in developing a strong and comprehensive plan to address each area of need, and to build upon your child's strengths and talents;
3) Parents should educate themselves about advocacy, and how you can obtain all services and support that your child needs;
4)  In home support, as well as support in school, should take a comprehensive approach that provides consistency and develops skills.

Part 3 of this series will focus on transitional issues into adulthood, and will outline concerns specific to individuals with Autism in adulthood throughout the lifespan. Part 4 will be a special guest blog by a parent of a young man with Autism.

If you have a child that you suspect has Autism, do not wait to get help. Early intervention is a key. 


Monday, April 11, 2011

What every parent needs to know about Autism

This is part of a 4 part series about Autism.

The Backstory

On May 21, 1991, I embarked on what would become a lifelong passion and journey that changed my life in more ways that I can ever explain. For sure, it pointed the way for the rest of my career: This was the date that I first began working at The Devereux Kanner Center, in West Chester, PA. As a psychology major, I needed to complete a Field Experience for a course in Human Development. As I walked through the Sykes Union Center, I happened upon a job fair, where is met a woman who was at a table with applications. “What is this Devereux place?” I asked. At that time, I never planned to work with adults with Autism and other Intellectual Disabilities, which is generally the way all the best things in life come: unexpected and unplanned.

What is Autism?

Autism is a developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. It is a neurological disorder that affects the normal development and of the brain. The major areas affected are social and communication skills. Autism is one of 5 Pervasive Developmental Disorders (Autism, Asperger’s Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Rhett’s Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified).

While experts do not know the specific cause of autism, research suggests that it is a genetic disorder. What we DO KNOW is that autism is not caused by parenting style, nor is it caused by childhood vaccines. Research findings on the causes of autism have yielded inconsistent findings, but it is clear that there are a variety of abnormalities in the structure and chemicals in the brain.

Prevalence of Autism

Autism is found in all racial, social, ethnic, economic and geographic group. It knows no boundaries and can affect any family. The most recent statistics were reported by the CDC and state that Autism affects 1 in 110 children and 1 in 70 boys.

The most recent statistic are believed to be a dramatic under representation of the real statistics due to those who are not receiving services, have been misdiagnosed or were never formally diagnosed. In 2005, there were a total of 19,862 individuals who are diagnosed with Autism. At that time, it was estimated that there would be 25,000 in 2010. The following map depicts the prevalence by county:

What should parents look out for?

About half of all parents of children with Autism note that their child’s behaviors are unusual by approximately a year and a half. 80% are aware by 24 months.  Research has shown that early intervention is a key component of a good prognosis, and the earlier, the better.  If you see any of the following symptoms, see a psychologist as soon as possible:

3 - 4 mos old with no eye contact
12 months old with no babbling
12 months old with no pointing or waving goodbye
16 months old with no single words
24 months old with no two-word phrases
ANY loss of language skills or social skills, at ANY age

The next blog will include symptoms and behaviors associated with Autism.  If you suspect someone you know has Autism, or your child is displaying any delays, ASK A PSYCHOLOGIST!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Counseling Corner Extra: Do Vaccines Cause Autism?

There has been a great debate in the media about the belief that childhood vaccines cause autism.  Dr. Andrew Wakefield completed research that was later found to have fatal flaws. To date, there is no concrete proof that vaccines are the cause of autism.  To read more about this issue, click here.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Is something wrong with my kid? How to deal with behavioral problems in kids.

How do I get my child to LISTEN? Why won't she do what I ask? Is he normal?  Many parents have the same fears and concerns. The good news is that most childhood behavior problems are not lasting.  And even better news is that parents can do some concrete things to help teach their child how to behave. This article is meant as a brief overview for parents to outline what options may be available for your child. For more detailed information, several websites provide information about issues and a licensed psychologist who specializes in behavior can be very helpful.

Over the last decade, the number of children diagnosed with attentional disorders, behavior disorders and autism spectrum disorders has skyrocketed, leaving many parents feeling afraid, frustrated and alone. In addition to this, the prescription of psychiatric medication to treat these disorder has risen over the last 20 years, and many parents have serious misgivings about using medication to manage behavior. It is true that some children truly benefit from the use of medication, for ADHD in particular, however this cannot be a replacement for a clear and consistent parenting approach.  The decision to use medication is a personal one, and I have several friends who wish to forgo the medication in favor of staying the course with behavioral and educational approaches.

As a psychologist and behavior specialist, I am often asked to give parents advice about how to deal with their unruly or troubled kids. Here are some practical tips for assessment and treatment. 

Children experience stress from many sources. These include academic performance, friendships, managing expectation from parents and teachers, and peer pressure. Stress, in general, can be a positive thing - it provides the motivation we need to get up when the alarm goes off, to study the spelling list for the quiz, and to play with other children appropriately. When stress becomes overwhelming, it can take its toll, causing hardship, behavioral problems, and emotional distress. Knowing what behavioral clues to look for can be half the battle. As a parent, things to watch for include:
  • crying
  • avoiding things he/she used to enjoy
  • fearful reactions
  • clingy behavior
  • irritability or moodiness
  • sleep problems
  • eating issues
  • complaining about or avoiding school
It's important to remember that kids all develop at their own pace and that all children (and adults for that matter) have a bad day from time to time. In addition, stressful events such as a move, divorce, additional of a sibling, or loss of a pet, can have an impact on kids.  It is perfectly normal for children to have high energy levels. Then when should you be concerned?
  • your child's behavior is disruptive
  • interrupts her interaction with other children
  • showing signs of social withdrawal
  • has difficulty focusing his attention
  • impulsive or aggressive behavior
If your child's behavior is not appropriate for his/her age, if it is a pattern of ongoing behavior, or it is interfering with his/her growth, education or development, it may be time to consult a professional. Medication is just one option that may be explored, and you should be sure educate yourself about possible benefits and side effects of any medication. The prescribing physician (preferably a child psychiatrist) will tell you the information about the drug and the ultimate decision is yours. If you choose to pass on the medication, other options are available. These may include:
  • behavioral treatment, which would be tailored for your child.
  • parent education
  • social skills training
  • family support services
  • in home services
 If you or someone you know needs help or is in trouble ASK A PSYCHOLOGIST!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Psychology of Politics

"All people are born alike - except Republicans and Democrats" - Groucho Marx

The Facebook question was simple enough: Are you watching the State of the Union address tonight? Tell us what you think of the president's speech? What followed in the Comments was an interesting combination of political banter from many of the readers. Few of them actually answered the question. Inevitably, the insults were hurled and names were called. As I read the postings with some level of detached amusement, I began to wonder: How do our political beliefs develop? Is it as simple as socio-economic status, or following the politics of our parents?

As I considered this topic, and began to look around for answers, I found some surprising, funny and interesting research and information. Here I will make a disclaimer: People are individuals, and the information is meant for amusement (although it is based in research) and food for thought; it is not meant to diagnose, classify, categorize or judge anyone. I decided to post this blog to try to lighten the political mood, and give people a chuckle. When it comes to politics, we sometimes take ourselves too seriously, and we are in serious need of some levity....

Here are some highlights of interesting tidbits I found about Liberals and Conservatives....

1. People who tend to lean to the left or to the right have actual differences in their temperament.
2. Conservatives and liberals actually have different home and office decor
3. Conservatives are neater, more organized and more conventional.
4. Liberals are messier, have more color and display maps and flags from around the world.
5. Liberals have more books, and like to read.
6. Conservatives are more likely to be religious.
7. Liberals are more likely to listen to classical and jazz music, while conservatives are more likely to enjoy country.
8. Conservatives tend to think about things, and liberals tend to use feelings to make decisions.

It's important to realize that people tend to read articles, blogs and watch news channels that support their ALREADY FORMED OPINIONS. Taking in these outlets does not generally sway someones beliefs, but merely reinforces their opinions. In general, people's political views tend to be based on several factors, such as how educated, how dangerous we perceive the world to be, and personality traits that are first seen when we are young children. Furthermore, it seems that FEAR is one of the strongest motivators. Following 9/11, there was a shift toward conservatism, and people were comforted by those ideals, the simplicity of right and wrong, black and white, and the need for clear answers.

What's clear to me, was what the President said in his speech.  We may fight and argue, but none of us would ever have it any other way. At least in our country we have the ability to disagree. In many countries, they do not have the freedom to choose, to vote or to have a voice. At the end of the day, I am still proud to be an American, because in America, I can write this blog.

If you are conflicted about your political leanings, need help organizing your life, or are afraid...ASK A PSYCHOLOGIST (Didn't think I was going to leave that out, did you?).

For more information about the above blog and the research it contains about The Psychology of Politics, please click here:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What do we tell the children? How to talk about violence and other hard topics with your kids

I remember clearly the day the world changed, I was working, it was a beautiful, clear day. And the sky fell.  I was at work in a group home, and all of us were glued to the television set, watching the events unfold. We even saw the second tower fall.  At some point during the day, I became aware that as we were watching the news, so would our clients be watching when they returned from work. And very soon, the televisions were turned off.

On that sunny September day, Christina Green was born.  Her life began on a beautiful day in September. Began on a day fraught with tragedy.  On Saturday, another tragedy struck, and ended her life.  Senseless, brutal, and heartbreaking.  She was just 9 years old. In addition, 5 others lost their lives, and 14 were more wounded, including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D) from Arizona, leaving many of us to wonder, why?

When shots rang out in the Safeway parking lot on Saturday morning in Tucson, Arizona, it was a stark reminder of how fragile life is, of how we sometimes feel helpless to keep our children safe, and left us with more questions than answers - how could this happen, why would Jared Lee Loughner shoot people he doesn't even know, and could this tragedy have been prevented?

Raising children is one of the most difficult, but most rewarding challenges you will ever have. Events like those Saturday don't make our jobs any easier for us.   In today's world, this awesome responsibility can be full of confusing, and often tragic lessons. Further, when we hear that one of the victims is a child, it leaves us with a sinking feeling. For our own children, such events can often leave them feeling even more frightened and confused, and also leaves them with questions. As parents, we wonder what to say, how much to tell them, and what words to use. It's a delicate balance between giving accurate and truthful information, and refraining from scaring or alarming children. You must constantly monitor your child's emotional reaction and ensure that you provide feelings of safety.

This blog is not intended to diagnose Jared Lee Loughner or to speculate on the politics or mental health issues that fueled his anger, and triggered this shooting spree. It is intended to give parents concrete information to help them, and their children, cope with the aftermath of such violence.

Children often ask tough questions, and as children see stories on television and hear about violence, terrorism, natural disasters, etc., these are the most difficult to address as parents. After all, how do you explain Jihad to your 5 year old or assassination attempts to your third grader?  Added to this dilemma is the often graphic and detailed nature of the news reports, and images that are seen on television. 

When discussing acts of violence it is crucial to keep several basic guidelines in mind:

  • First and foremost, open the lines of communication with your child early on, so that they feel comfortable coming to you when they have questions;
  • Know what your child is seeing on TV, hearing on the radio, and reading in the newspaper and online. Remember that just because your child does not watch CNN or Fox News, doesn't mean they are not exposed. The home pages of Yahoo and other popular sites have headlines displayed prominently.
  • Remember that watching the news is an enticing as sneaking an R rated movie. It has it all, sex, violence, action, and drama that the latest box office hit is advertising. You can decide what your child is viewing, and this includes the news they see.
  • Watch the news (and other shows) WITH your kids. This way you will know exactly when they are seeing, and will be readily available to answer questions or calm their fears.
  • Be sure that you talk with them about what you, and they, see and hear.  This will also help the lines of communication stay open. Be sure that your kids know they can come back later and ask if they have questions.
  • Since parents are the ones to teach values and morals, it's ok to let them see how you feel about it. Dont' be overly emotional, but it's ok to share feelings such as "I feel very sad or angry that someone hurt a child".
  • Listen! (nuff said?)
  • And then listen some more. It's important for kids to have a platform to share their feelings and thoughts about how they feel. Don't interrupt them or try to cut them off to avoid uncomfortable questions or discussions. It's part of the job.
  • Provide reassurance to your child about their safety. Say things such as "I know this is scary, but I will do everything I can to make sure you are safe".
  • Teach kids to be safe without being alarmist. Teaching them basic skills such as locking doors, not talking to strangers, not giving out personal information online and avoiding dangerous situations can go a long way to help them feel like an active participant in their safety.
  • Turn off and tune out.  Go outside and play, stay in and watch Shrek, or play a family game.  I know that in the days following 9-11, I found the need to turn off the television, go for a walk and listen to my favorite music. While I felt somewhat guilty about doing so (after all, the victims, first responders and families couldn't tune out), it is so important to realize that while we always remember, and always stay alert to the world, we must go on.
  • Ask for help. If you or your child is having a difficult time handing the aftermath of a tragedy, please remember that HELP is available. 

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