How Invalidating My Bipolar Disorder Invalidates Me

It has been almost two years since I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, ADHD and generalized panic disorder. I can be pretty open about mental health and my diagnosis. However, I almost never share the more extreme parts of my illness, or I hide it completely due to the stigmas attached to it.

After years of being misdiagnosed and going on and off antidepressants, I was finally given the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. That was a huge breakthrough for me. It made the way I felt and the severe mood swings I would experience feel validated. There was a reason. I now had words to explain what I was going through: mania, depression, hypomania.

I now know why all of the medications I’ve tried over the years never worked for me. Like most people with bipolar, I had been diagnosed consistently with depression and anxiety disorder. The reason for this common misdiagnosis is due to the fact that most people with bipolar don’t acknowledge or recognize the mania. For many—not all—mania is relief from the depression. You feel good, productive, accomplished, unstoppable. However, the mania can also be dangerous and is always met with an inevitable crash because your body can’t withstand that type of exertion without rest. So, when I would plunge into severe depression and couldn’t take it anymore, I would go see a doctor.

The antidepressants never worked, and the antianxiety medications made me a zombie. Often times, I would get worse, but the doctors always told me it was because I stopped taking the medications. I found out recently that antidepressants can actually throw someone with bipolar into mania or depression. Again, I finally felt validated.

Still, I found that the validation I felt, or the acceptance of this diagnosis, was not felt by everyone. There are many reasons for this: lack of knowledge, bias, misconceptions, etc. Below are some of the responses I have received after telling people about my bipolar diagnosis. Some people have been supportive, some well-intentioned, others ignorant, or just plain hurtful. A few of the responses I have received are listed below.

“You don’t have bipolar.” “You seem normal.” You don’t seem crazy.”

I’m not crazy. I have a mental illness. I don’t announce it to the world when I can’t get out of bed for 48+ hours or that the reason I have recently taken up so many hobbies or work so many hours is actually one of the many, many symptoms of a manic episode.

“You didn’t seem like you had bipolar until you were diagnosed.”

This one hurts a lot. I have finally, for once in my life, had my feelings and emotions validated. I understand better why I am the way I am, and for the first time, I can actually work towards a proper plan to treat it, or minimize it. I was also very good at hiding it most of the time. This response completely crushes that feeling.

My mania was controlled by being massively sedated, and I learned that no one wants to talk to you when you’re depressed, so I would just disappear during those times. Now, I am learning to cope and experience the emotions and moods that come with my illness.

Now, I must learn to cope and experience the emotions and moods that come with my illness. I am experiencing a lot mentally, emotionally, and physically due to new medications, quitting antianxiety medications and actually being allowed to claim bipolar and feel it’s heavy full weight and the burden it bears. This means those mood swings, emotions and deceptive thoughts must be felt for the first time in a long time and that’s extremely challenging to say the least.

I talk about it because I trust you, I need support, or I want to explain why I have been acting the way I have lately. Having bipolar disorder can put a massive strain on relationships. There’s nothing worse than seeing its effects and not knowing how to stop it.

“I feel like bipolar is just an excuse.”

I am responsible for my actions. I will own up to those actions, accept that I am accountable, and work as hard as I can to fix it. It’s not an excuse, but it is a cause. A lot of times, especially in the past, everything is blurred by the mania or depression, and I don’t see the effects of my actions until clarity returns.

Believe me, it’s as frustrating for me as it is for you. The guilt, shame and self-hate can be so real. This is why many of us end up isolating ourselves. Sometimes I feel that all I do is apologize, even if I don’t know why. I know that this makes it seem less sincere, but I can’t control the intense feelings of guilt. Don’t be afraid to tell me when I’m doing something wrong or if my moods are affecting you. I don’t want to make you feel the way that I do. But don’t tell me that bipolar is just an excuse. It’s a reason, and I want you to know that sometimes the bipolar causes me to act in a way that is not me. I have been working on it desperately.

“That’s the bipolar talking.” “Have you taken your meds?” “Maybe you’re just imagining it.”

My feelings are real and not always a symptom of my mental health condition. Everyone gets angry, sad, excited, passionate, etc. Believe it or not, my emotions are not always synonymous with my illness.

“You don’t need medication.” “Just think positive.” “Just calm down.” “You need to do yoga.”

You have no idea how frustrating and exhausting the years of trial and error in medications and treatment are, or how frightening the side effects of certain medications can be. Still, I continued to seek treatment because the symptoms of not treating the illness were far worse. I held that mentality before. “I don’t need meds. I feel fine.” This was typically when manic. I was wrong. Even though there are many other things I do to help manage, I do also need medication.

A lot changed for me after coming off of antidepressants and benzodiazepines. I had more energy. I talked faster than I already did. I wanted to do and accomplish more. I was more excitable. I was more agitated. I would get easily frustrated. For good and for bad, a lot of the symptoms haven’t and will never completely go away. I would take things out on my husband, my mom, my family, and my friends without realizing it, or I completely isolate myself when I do.

I was prescribed medication to treat my ADHD. Now, not only was I dealing with the stigma of having bipolar, but now I had to deal with the stigma of the medication to anyone who knew. People started looking at me differently and attributing a lot of my actions, and even accomplishments, to either the illness or my medication. “That’s why you’re so productive.” “That’s why you’re so sped up.” “You don’t need that.”

Actually, I do. It doesn’t affect me in the same way that it affects people who don’t have ADHD. I’ve always had a hard time focusing, sitting in one place, being on time, staying on task. This gets even worse when I’m manic. Medication isn’t a cure all, but it can help manage the extremes of my condition. You’re not in my head.

Before my medication, there were times that I would self-medicate. I would drink too much, or make reckless decisions. The guilt that would follow would be unbearable. All I would feel is shame. Then the cycle would repeat until periods of stability. This is an impulse and cycle that I do not miss.

For the first time in a long time, I am learning to deal with my feelings, emotions and moods. It hasn’t been easy for me and it hasn’t been easy for those close to me. For that, I am sorry. The ones that stuck around, were there to listen, or to offer support, have been critical in this journey. Mental illness can be extremely lonely.

I am particularly grateful for my husband. He bears the brunt of my illness the most and it kills me. He does it graciously. He’s understanding. He doesn’t take it personally when I’m in a mood. He doesn’t judge. He listens. He encourages me to get better. He has had such a positive impact on my life, my health, and my happiness along this journey. I am in awe of his patience, supportiveness, and kindness. I appreciate him more than he will ever know.

“I wouldn’t tell anyone you have it. They’ll judge you and treat you differently.” “I wouldn’t tell your boss. It could affect your job.”

Sadly, this is often true. I’ve experienced it first hand and usually the ones who give this response are others that have dealt with the repercussions of disclosing their mental illness. I’ve done this many, many times. I’m quite good at it. I push through it. I smile when I am miserable. I slink off somewhere to manage an anxiety attack. I don’t talk to anyone when I am depressed.

When I reveal it, it is often not met kindly. However, that’s the reason I have decided to talk about it even more. The stigma is there because most keep quiet. This is what emboldens me to share my experiences. You never know who is suffering mentally. You can say you have a physical disease and most often, you are treated with concern or empathy. If you mention a mental disorder, the subject gets changed or the conversation get quiet. It’s an isolating experience.

Bipolar disorder doesn’t define me. There are also many good qualities that I have. I am passionate. I am adventurous. I am inquisitive. I am empathic. I am creative. Most importantly, I am strong.

https://www.nami.org/Personal-Stories/How-Invalidating-My-Bipolar-Disorder-Invalidates-M#

How Do We Get The Men Into Mental Health?

Note: This blog is presented as a cross-collaboration between NAMI and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, whose mission is to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide. It originally appeared on the AFSP Lifesavers Blog.

Dude. Dudes. It’s time for some real talk. Let’s get real here and look at the numbers. According to the latest figures from the Center for Disease Control, men are responsible for 76.92 percent of all completed suicides. Basically, about four out of every five completed suicides is a guy.

Yet here in South Carolina, where I’m on the local state board for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, I notice that every time we do a public mental health awareness program, about 80 percent of the attendees are women. A lot of these women show up because they’ve lost a loved one to suicide, and much of the time, the loved one they’ve lost was a man.

The numbers tell us a lot of men out there are suffering…but most men aren’t showing up to get help, raise awareness, or help encourage their fellow bros to talk about what they’re going through.

I’d like to ask all the women reading this blog post to leave the room for a minute.

Are they gone? Cool. Dudes, it’s just us now. Let’s talk.

I’ll start.

I lost two brothers to suicide. That’s right. Two. 11 years apart. Mark and Matthew. After the second one, I found myself in a very dark place. Sobriety, counseling, and time have helped me immensely, and in 2010 I started to volunteer for AFSP, and this has accelerated my recovery even further. It has taken me years to get to this point, but when you start helping other survivors of suicide loss and start focusing on preventing future occurrences of completed suicides, you ultimately end up helping yourself. My work with AFSP has benefited me greatly on a personal level, but I am still very bothered by what is happening with men and suicide.

So, I’m going to turn this around on you now, and ask for your help. First, a couple questions:

  • Why is the number for male suicide so high?
  • How do we lower it?

I personally think the first step is for us dudes to become more comfortable talking about it. How can we get our fellow men to open up? First of all, let’s realize that when we show vulnerability, we are actually showing strength. We need to focus on forming some really tight connections with each other. Once those are in place, we need to get comfortable sharing real life situations, knowing full well that two (or more) brains are better than one. How do we get our other dude buddies to feel comfortable doing this?

For me, I am involved in a faith-based, men’s-only group that meets every Friday. We in the group have grown together to a place where we are quite comfortable admitting to each other when we’re screw ups, or when we’re worried about something…but that has taken some time. That’s just one example. I saw recently that the construction industry is including mental health into their meetings, and the NCAA is addressing mental health issues through their Sport Science Institute. Progress!

Maybe another tactic is to keep things light. One thing I’m thinking about doing is hosting a men’s only comedy night with a mental health theme. Laughter helps people feel relaxed. Maybe if we guys can sit around, talk about feelings – I know, a lot of us hate that word—in a light way, it can help us become more comfortable opening up.

Another thought I had in terms of encouraging our fellow men to join our efforts in suicide prevention is to not make it too time consuming. Men tend to volunteer in spurts. We’ll do a golf outing, but mention a three-year commitment to a board and most of us are out the door. It’s important to remember that we can all get involved within the constraints of our own personal comfort zone. Every little bit helps. Dip your toe in the pool. The water’s warm.

No matter what strategies we use, the overall message is simple: mental health and suicide are okay to talk about, and we all matter. Talk Saves Lives.

So, what are your thoughts? If you’re a guy and have been impacted by mental health conditions or possibly a suicide attempt or a loss, reach out for help, or come help us at AFSP. Get off your duff and find your local chapter and volunteer for something — anything! Even just making a point to talk matter-of-factly about mental health and feelings (jeez, that word again!) with your friends makes a difference, because it lets them know you’re a safe person to talk to when they have something to say.

Women – I can see you’ve stepped back in, now, that’s okay – do what you can to drag the men in your life to a community walk, a survivor’s meeting, or somewhere you feel they can benefit from, but might not feel comfortable going to themselves. Many of us will not do it without your help.

Finally, think about ways we can better reach men about suicide prevention, and share your ideas. Come at us with all you’ve got. If we want to lower the suicide rate 20 percent by 2025, we’ve got to put the men back into mental health.

By Dennis Gillan | Sep. 08, 2017

When Betrayal in a Dream Leads to Real-Life Conflict

I don’t recognize the bedroom. The walls are black and bare, except for a chaotic painting hanging in a random corner. From the doorway, I see two people laced together on a bed. I’m embarrassed, because they’re naked, but I don’t think they know I’m here. There’s a woman whose voluptuous silhouette is blurred by shadows — apart from her hair. Even against the dark contrast of the room, her cascade of long, black curls stand out. There’s a man too. I can see him clearly, but … that can’t be … oh, god.

For the past few months, I’ve had a vivid, recurring dream that I catch my husband being unfaithful with some mysterious woman, always the same one.

Every time, I wake up shaking, almost in tears, and immediately want to lash out at my husband — even though he is fast asleep, drooling away on one of our overpriced down-filled pillows. He’s done nothing wrong, but I still can’t help but hope that a stray feather drifts up his nose and makes him sneeze. The emotions I have in this dream are different — deeper, more painful — than anything I’ve felt in dreams past. And they linger.

The next morning, behind red, swollen eyes, I try to shake off the hurt and anger that have been plaguing me all night. But lately, things haven’t ended so well. While eating breakfast the other day, my husband mentioned running into a girl from high school at a local convenience store. An innocent story, except that I’d just had the dream again the night before. In my mind, I saw her face on the unidentified woman — and stormed off, leaving behind a man who was incredibly confused.

Later in the day, I apologized and we carried on — but somewhere deep inside, I continue to hold a tiny grudge. Yes, it’s unfair, and I know the whole thing makes me sound slightly unhinged. How can I stay mad at someone over a hypothetical situation? Besides, I’m not normally the jealous type, and I know my husband would never cheat. So, why is a dream affecting my reality so much?

“Typically, dreams that are troubling to us or that have particularly intense emotions tend to stick with us more than neutral or less intense dreams,” explains Alexis Conason, a clinical psychologist based in New York. Most people dream at least four to six times per night — that’s generally about two hours total, adding up to a twelfth of our lives — but remember only a tiny sliver of what they’ve dreamed about. And most of the time, the dreams they remember are the emotionally shocking or difficult ones, filled with anxiety, fear, guilt, shame, helplessness, or confusion.

In part, the explanation is straightforward — negative experiences are generally more emotionally charged, and easier to remember, than positive ones. Timing also plays a role: The majority of our dreams — especially our most vivid dreams — happen during REM sleep, which is also when the limbic system, a collection of structures in the center of the brain that deals with emotion, is especially active.

While researchers still aren’t sure why we have nightmares, one theory is that they provide a safe, low-stakes space to work through difficult emotions or situations that might be troubling us in waking life. “Dreams are the number-one way in which we process emotions, particularly emotional tensions that we are experiencing in waking life,” said psychologist and dreaming expert Ian Wallace. “They are part of the same problem-solving processes that we use during the day.”

This might explain why I keep having the same recurring dream. “Generally speaking, we dream about whatever it is that is going on in our lives as we are falling asleep, or it’s the most prevalent stressful situation that’s going on in our world,” explains psychologist and sleep specialist Michael Breus. “If you have a situation where you are thinking about something that is very, very stressful on a fairly regular basis, then it will show up as a dream or in your unconscious.” And that same dream can replay over and over again during stressful periods.

That’s not to say that the dream scenario is a literal representation of what’s bothering you in waking life — it can just be an indication that something is wrong. Breus, for instance, has a recurring “stress” dream of his own: “I’m in high school, the bell rings, and I run to my locker to get my books for the next class,” he says, but “it’s a combination lock and I cannot remember the combination. I sit there and I spin the dial and I get more and more stressed out.” He wakes up in a cold sweat, he says, but understands it’s a sign that there’s something going on that he needs to think about.

Infidelity dreams, similarly, often have a lot to do with stress. “This has more to do with insecurity or self-esteem that’s going on with you personally than with your husband,” Breus says. And Wallace, who studies dream interpretation, suggests that I may conjure up the affair dream when I’m disappointed with myself. (Ironically, I’ve struggled with writing a novel this year, despite my husband’s support.)

And, as my husband unfortunately already knows, dreams can also impact our relationships. One 2013 study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found that the mood-altering effects of troubling dreams can last throughout the following day or even longer, negatively affecting intimacy and communication.

The good news, as Breus is quick to highlight, is that there’s no predictive value to dreams. And there are ways to stop the emotions of a bad dream from bleeding over into regular life: One approach is to give dreams better outcomes in our waking lives. “Prime your brain right before bed. And what that means, is to think about things that are positive before you go to sleep,” Breus recommended. Deep breathing and relaxation exercises can help. So can a technique called Image Rehearsal Therapy, in which a person writes out the entire content of their dream and then gives it a different ending. The idea, developed by sleep-disorder specialist Barry Krakow, is that over time, the exercise can alter the dream with the new outcome.

For now, I need to find a quiet corner and reflect on what stressors in my life could be causing my recurring nightmare. It might be the unfinished novel, or it might be something else. Until I find an answer, I’m hoping the mystery woman remains faceless and the pillows stay in one piece. And as far as my husband knows, my red eyes in the morning aren’t necessarily caused by the dream, anyway. I think I’m allergic to down.

By Crystal Ponti

http://nymag.com/scienceofus/article/when-betrayal-in-a-dream-leads-to-real-life-conflict.html

9 Signs You Should Break Up with Your Therapist

 

But let’s say, for example, you picked your therapist while you were in the midst of a crisis and now you feel like you’re too far into your treatment to leave. Or maybe you’ve gone a few times but you’re not really sure that you’re getting what you need from the interaction.

There are many reasons people find themselves in an established relationship with the wrong therapist or seeing someone they’ve outgrown. We asked experts for red flags that indicate you need to break up with your therapist and find a new one. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Your therapist fell asleep on you

Believe it or not, this actually happens.

“I have had more people than I can count come to my office and tell me that they’re coming because their previous therapist fell asleep,” Chloe Carmichael, a clinical psychologist based in New York City, told The Huffington Post. “And they’ve told me that it’s happened more than once.”

If your therapist ever falls asleep on you in session, take that as a sign that he or she is not fit to be working with patients and you should find someone new.

2. You feel like your therapist doesn’t support your goals

It is important that you feel supported. Charmichael gives the example of a troubled relationship: If your therapist thinks you should break up with your partner but you are seeking help to repair the relationship, have a conversation with your therapist about this, she advises.

“I would encourage the person to say, ‘I want to clarify if we should continue working together, because I want to clarify that we have the same goals. I want to stay with my boyfriend and sometimes I feel like you want me to break up with him. Is that true?’” Carmichael said.

This kind of conversation provides the opportunity to see if you and your therapist see eye-to-eye, learn about potential red flags he or she might be noticing and agree about the direction in which your life is going.

“You do not want to be with somebody who comes across as judgmental,” agreed Liana Georgoulis, a clinical psychologist and director of Coast Psychological Services in Los Angeles.

On the other hand, sometimes you won’t always hear what you want to hear, Georgoulis said. The right therapist won’t always agree with you. And, of course, any therapist has a responsibility to intervene if you’re in an abusive or otherwise dangerous situation.

3. The therapist claims he or she is an expert in every condition

Beware of therapists who say they’re able to help with everything or market themselves as a “Jack of all trades.”

Many therapists know which conditions they can help with, and also where they can’t, Carmichael notes. A good therapist will refer you to someone else if your condition falls out of his or her scope.

4. You’re not sure why you are in therapy

Therapy can provide tools for coping with everyday stress or a mental health condition. Make sure you are working with your therapist toward mutually agreed-upon and clearly defined goals.

“Sometimes there might be differences in what that work is or how to get there,” Georgoulis said. But ask the professional you’re seeing to outline the treatment plan so you have a good sense of what it is you’re doing together.

5. Your therapist needs reminders

You should not feel like you need to brief your therapist on events or facts you’ve already covered in previous weeks.

“If that happens every session, that might be a sign that you want to get a therapist that’s more organized or more attentive,” Carmichael said. “You shouldn’t have to lead the therapist.”

6. You don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere

Let’s say you went into therapy for anxiety and you’ve learned tools to help you cope better each day. So rather than talk about anxiety, you bring up other issues that you need help working out. But session after session, you just don’t see any progress in these areas.

“Sometimes you’ve just gone as far up the mountain as you can with somebody, and it’s justifiably time to say goodbye,” Carmichael said.

Georgoulis agrees. If you’ve been in therapy for a long time but the needle hasn’t moved on certain issues, bring this up to your therapist. If you are still in pain, or not feeling good, it may serve you to find another person to talk to, she said.

7. You know too much about your therapist’s life

When therapists tell patients information about their own lives to make a point or illustrate an idea, it’s called disclosure. Researchers have been debating where the line is when it comes to this technique for ages ― even Sigmund Freud grappled with it, The New York Times reported.

Here’s how Carmichael suggests approaching it: If the therapist is telling you things about his or her own life for an obvious reason and it feels helpful, it’s probably fine. But if you can’t figure out why the therapist is sharing certain stories, or if he or she is taking up your valuable therapeutic time, it could be an indicator that this therapist is not the right fit.

Carmichael suggests finding a therapist who expresses him or herself quickly and distinctly during your time together.

“There’s not room for long winded answers,” she said.

8. You go to therapy just to vent

A core component of good therapy is the therapist’s ability to connect a patient’s thoughts, find patterns and then trace it all back to concrete changes in thinking, Georgoulis said.

“If a therapist is just letting you come in and ‘vent’ each week, that’s not a good sign,” she said.

Find a therapist who does more than just make you feel better in the moment or provide advice for particular situations.

9. You feel good after every session

“There’s a misconception, I think, that people are supposed to walk away from a therapy session feeling great and I don’t think that’s true,” Georgoulis said. “The work is hard and sometimes you leave therapy sessions feeling challenged or drained. Stuff gets stirred up.”

If you are always leaving therapy feeling like everything is perfect, Georgoulis urges you to ask yourself if you are truly doing the work. It could be a sign that you need a different therapist who can help you process challenging emotions.

So, what should you do?

Both experts say the best route to securing the right therapist from the outset is to interview several of them, be straightforward about why you need counseling and ask about specific treatment methods he or she uses.

Bottom line, there are many excellent reasons to go to therapy. But once you’re there, consider if the therapist is really the right fit for you. If it’s not the right match, do what you need to do to find the right person.

It’s worth it.

 

Therapists work for you. Read these signs to determine if you need to “shop around” a bit more to get the help that you deserve!http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/signs-you-should-break-up-therapist_us_58ed18f0e4b0ca64d919dd01?utm_hp_ref=mental-health

5 No-Phone Zones for Parents and Kids Alike

Places like the dinner table can be designated phone-free for the whole family.
Credit Marie D. De Jesus/Houston Chronicle, via Associated Press

 How can we get our kids to put down their phones when they see us on ours so often?

A 2016 survey by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit children’s advocacy and media ratings organization, asked almost 1,800 parents of children aged 8 to 18 about screen time and electronic media use by the parents. The average amount of time that parents spent with screen media of all kinds (computers, TVs, smartphones, e-readers) every day: 9 hours and 22 minutes. And on average, only an hour and 39 minutes of that was work-related; 7 hours and 43 minutes were personal.

Maybe that’s one reason you hear more and more often the recommendation that families delineate specific screen-free times and places in their lives. James P. Steyer, the chief executive of Common Sense Media, cited the idea of “sacred spaces” advocated by Sherry Turkle, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of the 2015 book “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age.”

It’s just as important to regulate our own use of devices and put them aside for screen-free periods as it is to ask our children to disconnect. And it certainly adds spice to family life if children understand that the same rules apply for all ages: that Dad will get grief for surreptitiously checking his phone under the dinner table and Mom has to park hers in the designated recharging zone for the night just as the children do.

Here are my own top five sacred spaces, but I’ll tell you frankly that they’re very much “aspirational” for me; I have a long way to go before I’m a good example.

1. In the Bed

Keeping TVs out of children’s bedrooms and bedtimes is an old pediatric recommendation from back in the day when TV was the screen we worried about most. Now we also stress keeping smartphones out of their beds, but many of us as adults also struggle with this imperative, which pretty much everyone agrees is critical for improved sleep and therefore improved health. Those of us with children out of the home, of course, tell ourselves that the phone has to come into the bedroom in case a child needs to call — but the phone can sleep on the other side of the room, not on the night stand.

2. At the Table

If the family gathers around the dinner table, basic table manners dictate no digital participants. And yes, that means parents get in trouble if they lapse, and you don’t get to use the old let-me-just-Google-this-important-and-educational-fact strategy to settle family debates and questions of history, literature, or old movie trivia, because everyone knows what else you’ll do once you take out the phone.

3. Reading a Book

I don’t read books well if I’m toggling back and forth to email. That’s O.K. for other kinds of reading, maybe, but not for books. If you made a New Year’s resolution to read more books or you’re going to try for family reading time, you can allow e-readers, but you might keep other screens at a distance.

4. In the Outdoors

It’s definitely worth picking some outdoor experiences that are going to be screen-free. One of the dangers of carrying our screens with us wherever we go is that wherever we go, the landscape is the same — it’s a conscious decision to go outside and see what there is to see, even if that means losing the chance to take a photo now and then. It may also work to put phones on airplane mode for travel and family activities, so they can be used only as cameras – or for maps or emergency calls if needed.

5. In the Car

This is a tougher one for many families, since screens in the car can be so helpful on long rides, especially with siblings in proximity. But time in the car can also be remarkably intimate family time (yes, I know, not always in a good way). Some of the most unguarded conversations of the middle school and adolescent years take place when a parent is chauffeuring, so it’s probably worth trying for some designated screenless miles. I assume that I don’t have to say that the driver should not be looking at a screen — but the parent riding shotgun in the front also has to play by the rules.

Mr. Steyer said his organization’s survey showed that parents are paying attention to the ways that their children use screen media, and that they see it as their responsibility to monitor and regulate their children’s use of technology. In fact, two-thirds of the parents felt that such monitoring was more important than respecting their children’s privacy.

Parents’ role has to include awareness and also a willingness to “use media and technology together whenever you can,” Mr. Steyer said; “it’s good for parents to watch and play and listen with their kids and experience media and technology with them and ask them questions about what they see and hear.”

In a new policy on screen media use by school-age children and adolescents released last October, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggested that families develop and regularly update a family media use plan, using an online tool that takes into account the individual family’s patterns and goals and lets you designate screen-free times and places. That can be helpful for screen-loving children and for their screen-loving parents as well.

Five phrases that are guaranteed to make your kids stop begging.

I was in the supermarket last week, listening to a multitude of beeps from scanners, when a new sound caught my ears. It was a kid, a preschooler, begging for one of those baby bottle suckers with the sugar inside. She wanted the cherry flavour.

“Mummy, can I have this?” the little girl asked.

“No, honey,” the mother smiled.

“But mum, I don’t have one.”

“We have plenty of lollies at home,” the mum reminded.

“But I don’t have this one.”

“I said no,” the mother replied, while looking through an entertainment magazine.

With having no luck breaking her mother down verbally, the little girl upped her ante. Her face turned red and words about unfairness and meanness erupted from her mouth.

And then her next strategy: crying. In between her cries and words, she delivered gasps of air, purely for effect.

“Just put it in the cart,” the mum replied. “But you can’t have it until after dinner.”

“Can I just have one bite in the car?” the little girl asked.

“We’ll talk about it when we get in the car.”

The little girl’s tears turned to smiles within less than one minute of her setting eyes on what she wanted.

Now, I’m far from a perfect parent, but I cringed knowing what this mother had just traded. Basically her soul. She traded a nasty temper tantrum for a life of bargaining between her and her little sweet pea. And the sad thing is, it doesn’t have to be that way, nor should it.

“Now, I’m far from a perfect parent, but I cringed knowing what this mother had just traded.” Image via iStock.

I wanted to hand the mum a laminated card with these five fail-proof sayings burned into the paper. They’ve worked for me for years and remind me of chocolate. Every single one of them is good and I pick which “flavour” depending on my mood.

Next time your mini cross-examiner is giving you the run-down, take charge, be a mum, and above all, be consistent.

If you say no, you better mean it. By changing your mind, your child has gained more than a lolly; they’ve gained the knowledge you can be broken down easier than a cardboard box.

Have fun practicing these phrases with your little interrogator:

1. “Asked and answered.”

This is the motherload of all chocolates. Although I use the four below, I use this one ten more times then I use anything else. Let’s replay the scenario from above.

Child: “Mummy, can I have this?”

Mother: “No, honey.”

Child: “But mum, I don’t have one.”

Mother: “Asked and answered.”

Child: “You never get me anything.”

Mother: “Asked and answered.”

If the child keeps at it, you become a robot, saying the same three most blissful words over and over and over again.

“If you say no, you better mean it.” Image via iStock.

2. “I’m done discussing this.”

Child: “Can Ashlyn spend the night?”

Mother: “No, she just spent the night here last week.”

Child: “Please?”

Mother: “I’m not discussing this again.”

Child: “But …”

Then, from the mother, all action, no words. Smile pleasantly, tilt your head to the right, give the best devil eyes you can, and then simply walk away.

3. “This conversation is over.”

Child: “Can I ride my bike?”

Mother: “No, it’s raining outside.”

Child: “But I’ll wear my rain coat and it’s only sprinkling.”

Mother: “This conversation is over.”

Child: “But pleeeasssee?”

Mother: “Asked and answered.”

Become your usual robotic self. Remember, you’re a rock.

4. “Don’t bring it up again.”

Child: “I want these shoes.”

Mother: “No, those cost too much.”

Child: “But I don’t like those.”

Mother: “You’re getting the shoes in the cart and that’s final. Don’t bring it up again.”

Child: “I need them!”

Mother: “You brought it up again. There went your dessert for tonight.”

Yes, you’re going to get more crying with that response, but remember: getting your child to understand you mean business is a marathon, not a sprint.

“Yes, you’re going to get more crying with that response…” Image via iStock.

5. “The decision has been made. If you ask again there will be a consequence.”

Child: “Can I watch the iPad?”

Mother: “No, you know you’re not allowed having technology at the table.”

Child: “I won’t get food on it.”

Mother: “The decision has been made. If you ask again there will be a consequence.”

Child: “But I promise!”

Mother: “I told you not to bring it up again. No iPad for the rest of the day.”

Prepare for a few tantrums until your child learns they’re not going to get anywhere. This is part of their normal testing stage.

Your child will eventually realise nothing changes your mind. This is how you will earn your child’s respect and set up a relationship where your child accepts your decisions the first time.

Don’t forget: their best friend, Timeout, is only a few short steps away.

Here’s a success story: After years of using these phrases with my four-year-old, I’m reaping the benefits everyday with no tears or fighting back.

Here’s the conversation I had with my daughter, Charlotte, while writing this article.

Charlotte: “Can I have a cookie?”

Me: “Yes, you may have one.”

Charlotte: “Can I have three?”

Me: “This conversation is over.”

Charlotte: “OK, I’ll just break it in half so I can have two.”

Sure, I see some passive-aggressiveness in that last comment, but I still won the battle. She happily ate her one cookie and I happily continued typing at my computer.

You can have these blissful conversations, too. Laminate a card or start memorising, but trust me, they’re almost better than chocolate.

http://www.mamamia.com.au/kids-stop-begging/?redirect=tm

 

 

Toddlers and Self-Control: A Survival Guide for Parents

Children don’t actually develop this kind of self-control until 3.5 to 4 years of age, and even then they still need a lot of help managing their emotions and impulses. You are the expert on your child. We have expertise in child development. We’re in this together. #ParentForward

Picking up the remote after you’ve told your child not to touch it five times in 10 minutes. Slapping a friend who took the last train off the table at child care—right after she agreed with you that ‘hands are not for hitting.’ Running directly into the ocean after you’ve clearly explained that he can’t go in the water without an adult. These are typical toddler moments that all come down to one thing: self-control, and the lack of it.

Why do young children have so little self-control? The part of the brain responsible for exerting control over the emotional, impulsive part of the brain is not well-developed in children under 3. This is why toddlers are much more likely to act on their desires, such as yanking a toy out of a friend’s hand, rather than saying to themselves, “I really want that toy, but it’s not right to grab, so I am going to go find myself another toy.”

In fact, Tuning In, ZERO TO THREE’s national Parent Survey, found that parents’ expectations of their toddlers often outpace what toddlers are actually able to do when it comes to self-control. When parents were asked at what age children have the ability to resist doing something that parents have forbidden:

  • 56 percent of parents said children could do this before age three (including 18 percent of parents who believed children possessed this ability by six months of age)
  • 44 percent of parents said children could do this at age three years or older

Children don’t actually develop this kind of self-control until 3.5 to 4 years of age, and even then they still need a lot of help managing their emotions and impulses.

It’s not surprising so many parents have an ‘expectation gap,’ especially with so many 2-year-olds who are so verbal and able to repeat many of the rules parents have laid out. It can be very confusing. But being able to repeat a rule or expectation is not the same as being able to follow it.

Life with your little one will be (hopefully) much less maddening when your expectations for her are in line with her abilities. It can be a relief to know that your child is acting his age; that he needs help to learn to manage his impulses, and that he is not “misbehaving,” or purposefully trying to drive you crazy, as much as it feels that way. Here are some ideas for nurturing self-control:

1. Recognize that it’s not easy being a toddler.

There are an awful lot of things toddlers need to do that they don’t want to do, like getting in the car seat, stopping play to take a nap when they are NOT tired, or sharing their treasures. Let your child know you understand: “You are really disappointed that we can’t go to the playground today.” “You are mad that I won’t let you have ice cream before dinner. I totally get that.” “You are so frustrated with that train—it is so hard to make it stay on the track.” Giving your child the words to describe his feelings is the first step toward helping him manage his emotions and develop self-control.

2. Play games that require impulse control.

Color one side of a paper plate red and the other green, and play some “stop and go” games. For example, when you are outside playing, your child runs toward you until you put up the red sign. Then she runs again when the sign is green. Play “freeze dance” with music. When the music is on, your child dances; when you stop it, she has to freeze. Read books about children who get angry or have tantrums, and talk about how to handle these big feelings. Use your child’s pretend play as an opportunity to teach self-control. When a stuffed animal gets really mad or does something it shouldn’t, problem-solve how ‘Mr. Bear’ might deal with the challenge he’s facing.

3. Make a plan for how to help your child cope with experiences that are especially hard for your child.

Some toddlers have a hard time with transitions, while others have a hard time at birthday parties or adjusting to large group experiences. Think about what situations tend to trigger challenging behavior from your child. Making small adjustments to family routines (like re-thinking taking your toddler to the toy store after a bad night’s sleep) can help to reduce challenging behaviors, with more ‘Yesses’ and fewer ‘Nos’.

4. Set appropriate limits with natural consequences.

Even though your child may not be able to follow a rule yet, it is still important to set expectations. The key is to take a teaching and guiding approach with clear and natural consequences. Stay calm and explain the rule (“No throwing toys. If you throw the truck, I will have to put it away for 5 minutes”). If your child tests the limit, which is to be expected, calmly implement the consequence. Through everyday interactions like these, children develop the brain connections they need to master the skill of self-control.

5. Take your own temperature.

As a parent, you have a lot of power. Your child is taking his cues from you when it comes to managing emotions. Learning to manage and make sense of your own feelings—and getting help when you need it (and we all do)—is the best way to help your child develop self-control. Responding thoughtfully, rather than reacting, is one important way that parents make the difference in how their young children are learning and growing

https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/1603-toddlers-and-self-control-a-survival-guide-for-parents

Parents, Get Realistic About Your Expectations For Young Kids

Your two-year-old refuses to share his toy with your friend’s child. He snatches back his Thomas train. You are embarrassed, send him to his room for a time out, and tell him to come out when he’s ready to apologize. Once in his room, your child throws a full-fledged tantrum, complete with loud crying and kicking the wall. Now he’s really in trouble and will have to be punished, but were your original expectations fair?

According to a recently published survey of parents of young children conducted by ZERO TO THREE and the Bezos Family Foundation, the answer is no. The study reveals there is a sizable expectation gap between what child development experts know to be true and what parents assume their very young children can do. And the consequence is great frustration for parents and too much punishment for children.

Sharing:

Many parents and even some preschool educators often have unrealistic expectations that young children should be able to share and take turns. As an early childhood educator, I often observed a negotiation that goes something like this. The adult tells the child she may use the toy for a certain amount of time (often, a timer is used) and then she must “share” and give another child a turn. The most common result is for the child to refuse to relinquish the toy when time is up, followed by tears and consequences. For this reason, early childhood programs have multiple copies of the same toy in their youngest classrooms.

Because 43 percent of parents think children can share and take turns with other children before age two, however, many of young children are punished or labeled as selfish. In fact, this skill develops between 3 to 4 years, so what is interpreted as bad behavior is really a matter of development.

Impulse control:

As a preschool director, I often talked to parents who were angry with their little ones for not following rules. Some tried positive reinforcement techniques like sticker charts or resorted to bribes. Unfortunately, most relied on some form of punishment, most commonly putting their children in time outs for infractions. To their dismay, their children often repeatedly broke the rules regardless of the parents’ disciplinary technique and warnings.

Brain science research teaches that for children under age three, it is developmentally appropriate for them to be unable to control their impulses. Yet 56 percent of parents believe two-to-three year olds are being defiant when they break rules, and 36 percent believe this to be true for their children under age two. The truth is that children just start to develop the ability to control their impulses between 3.5 to 4 years, without it being consistent until much later.

Controlling emotions:

Crying and tantrums drive most parents up the wall. This often leads to lectures, yelling, and punishment such as the traditional time out and/or isolation in a room. (Hopefully not spanking the child, but I’m sure that happens too.) While leaving a child alone in a safe environment until he calms down may work, tantrums often happens in public where there is no place to do this. Becoming angry and even hitting a child in this state is like pouring fuel on the fire.

What parents don’t understand is that it is unrealistic to expect children younger than 3.5 to 4 years old to control their emotions. 24 percent of all parents of one-year-olds believe that children have the capacity to control their emotions, and 42 percent of parents believe their children should have this ability by two years. Thus, according to the survey, the majority of parents of very young children think they should not have tantrums and emotional outbursts. Once again, I suspect many kids are punished for something they can’t control.

Assume most parents love their children:

According to the study, the good news is that most parents (91 percent), regardless of race, ethnicity, income and education level, believe their children are their greatest joy. They think they are adequate parents but also want to improve their parenting skills. The parents surveyed felt if they knew more about child development and appropriate expectations, they would be better parents. They wished they had more positive parenting strategies in their arsenal. And they understood the importance of the first five years of life.

The majority of those surveyed are really “good enough” parents, but they shared these important goals for improving their parenting skills:

  • Manage their own emotions as a model for their children
  • Have more patience
  • Not lose their temper or yell at their kids

In order to achieve these goals, there needs to be a greater understanding of how expectations are often at odds with developmental ability. Perhaps this disconnect between what we want children to do and what they are actually capable of is fueled by the growing expectations we as a society have for very young children. The increasingly academic orientation of our early childhood and lower elementary classrooms is a perfect example of this phenomenon.

Why It’s ‘Self-Reg,’ Not Self-Control, That Matters Most For Kids

“Self-regulation is about identifying the causes and reducing the intensity of impulses and, when necessary, having the energy to resist,” psychologist Stuart Shanker writes in his book, Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life.

LA Johnson/NPR

As parents, it can be natural enough to conclude that when our kids act up or act out — at home, at school, away at the beach or park on family summer vacation — we should tell them to calm down and be sure they follow through.

After all, isn’t it our job to teach our kids to learn some self-control?

But what about the kids who not only can’t calm down, they have no idea what it means to calm down? What about the kids who are continuously over-aroused, stressed to the point where their nervous systems need not words but step-by-step embodied guidance to even begin to calm?

In the just-published Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life, psychologist Stuart Shanker of York University and the MEHRIT Centre in Canada asks us — parents, teachers, coaches, anyone who mentors kids — to think not in terms of self-control but of self-regulation.

Shanker writes: “Self-control is about inhibiting impulses; self-regulation is about identifying the causes and reducing the intensity of impulses and, when necessary, having the energy to resist.”

Looking at five domains in a child’s life — biological, emotional, cognitive, social, and prosocial — and how they interact, we can begin, he says, to reframe our own perceptions of what’s going on with our kids, as a starting point to help them gain greater calm and attention, and also empathy for others.

Self-Reg
Self-Reg

How to Help Your Child (and You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life

by Stuart Shanker and Teresa Barker

Hardcover, 307 pages

purchase

The biggest lesson that I’ve taken from Self-Reg is that when a child insists that a teacher’s voice is harsh, or a restaurant or classroom is unbearably bright or loud, we need to recognize (even though we might not experience things that way at all) that the child is very probably not lying, exaggerating or trying to be oppositional. Instead, the child’s biological sensitivities may make her exquisitely reactive in a way that triggers a constant cycle of over-arousal-crash-over-arousal as she tries to cope. That’s where Self-Reg comes in, with strategies for regulating the out-of-whack nervous system.

And the worst thing we can do is to ask our kids to calm — or even go to sleep — by playing with computer or gaming devices. That sort of activity only feeds brain and body hyperactivity, and when the child eventually becomes depleted, he will crave even more arousal.

Stuart Shanker and I have collaborated on research and writing projects in anthropology and psychology. Last week, after I read Self-Reg, I asked him some questions via email:

I was very struck by your point that many young children today simply don’t know what the sensation of “calm” feels like. How did we get to this point, and what are the first steps that parents and teachers can take, in turning that around?

Kids get stuck in what neuroscientists call a “higher set point” — think of a car with a higher idling speed — and seek out experiences to keep their engine racing. They become so accustomed to this state that they find slower-paced activities aversive. They push their nervous system to its limits, crash, then push to the limits again. Parents need to slow things down with them. Find shared calming activities — like going for a walk, listening to music, baking — where the reward is being in this state together. The big thing is, they need to feel what it’s like to be calm, not be told to “calm down.”

The “Interbrain” is a key concept in your book. Can you talk a bit about what it is and why it matters so much?

The Interbrain is like a wireless brain-to-brain connection that operates, not just between a “higher-order brain” that possesses self-regulating skills and a developing brain just acquiring them, but throughout the lifespan. Our need for strong Interbrain connections is a biological imperative, and when that need wanes, this is a sign that the stress-load is too great. The old “genetic” way of thinking about the brain as an isolated organ governed by ancient mechanisms actually describes what human functioning is like when social engagement has broken down because of heightened stress.

Do parents or teachers ever snort disbelievingly at your insistence that there are no bad kids, or tell you, “look, these kids need to toughen up — if we fix for them every little sensory annoyance they’ll never function in the real world?” I think it can be hard for all of us, at first, to grasp the idea you write about, of an escalating cycle of over-arousal that may be set off by sensations that — to a hyper-sensitive child — aren’t small at all.

One of the most rewarding experiences has been to see teachers who did more than just snort go on to become Self-Reg champions. We place so much emphasis on how a child’s learning of “calm” has to be experiential, but the same point applies to Self-Reg: You have to feel and not just read about the changes that occur when you help a child self-regulate in order to get past your initial resistance. What you are describing in your question is that true empathy for children that is our species’ greatest strength.

It seems a profound realization for all of us as parents to hear what you say in Self-Reg: “All too often we confuse our needs with the child’s. We seek to make children more manageable, rather than self-managing.” Your program aims to change that, and has caught on not only in Canada but internationally. Why do you think this shift from managing kids to helping kids with self-reg is touching such a chord?

I think there are two reasons. The first is, because the stress that children are under today has become far too great, and for that reason, we are seeing so many problems in mood, behavior, and attention as well as a sharp rise in physical health problems. To understand why this is happening we have to recognize the many different kinds of stress that kids are under, hidden as well as overt, and learn how to distinguish between misbehavior and stress-behavior.

But the second part of the answer is that our own stress drops dramatically when we shift from trying to enforce compliance to reducing the causes of challenging behaviors and teaching kids how to do this for themselves.


http://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2016/07/07/484910409/why-its-self-reg-not-self-control-that-matters-most-for-kids