They know the latest Apple application to download. Their profiles on Instagram and Facebook are always up to date. They score really high on games like COD (Call of Duty), Mindcraft and FIFA. Schools even have online computer applications for students who have “misplaced their agendas.” So why is my pre-teen and teenager still waiting the last minute to complete projects? Why do I have to repeatedly ask them to complete chores when I get home from work? When are they just going to “get it!”

Some may even believe that technology impedes the development of children. Studies show adults and children are spending an average of seven to nine hours per day screen time (includes phone, gaming devices, TV and computers). For us “old school” parents, who were not privileged with smart phones, laptops and social media, we may find it challenging to discipline effectively.

Many parents rely too heavily on taking their technology stuff away as a consequence. Taking things away and removal of privileges, especially after about age 10, is actually a fairly ineffective and frustrating method of discipline. Disciplining effectively is less about the “toys” available to our children, taking stuff away or grounding and more about teaching and time.

For those of us who knew how to obey, to respect and to do our chores (without being asked too much) regularly, we quite likely had positive guidance, good role models and a valued relationship with those caring for us. That’s how we learned responsibility. There are parenting manuals out there for parents… “I’m too busy”… “I shouldn’t have to read”… “They should just listen”… “Parenting comes naturally”………… ALL Stinkin Thinkin!

We want our kids to read and learn then… it is equally important to find ways to learn creative, effective, efficient and loving disciplinary strategies. Many families are opting to remove tech from the dinner table, preferring to enjoy meal time with talking and sharing the important events in their day.

Parent-focused counseling can help parents vent their concerning experiences, identify strengths both they and their child(ren) have as well as increase positive parenting strategies. One such example is to learn the skills of negotiating, developing, adjusting and maintaining healthy expectations or boundaries for all family members.  To learn more, call us today!

“I Hate to Admit It”

They tease each other, pick on one another, make fun, wrestle, and yell. Their confrontations always end up with one crying, or bleeding, or slamming doors.

Will they ever get along? Can we ever achieve serenity in our home? I’ve heard of sibling rivalry; but this is a bit much. How do I know when I need to get more help for my kids?

These are questions that many parents may ask as their children display increased conflict. Some may not know this, but conflict is actually a normal and healthy part of relationships. When the emotions and behaviours to express and resolve conflicts are carried out appropriately, both parties achieve closure. Conflict can teach us many things:

It can teach us how to appropriately present our perspectives.
We may learn how to confidently rebut other viewpoints.
When done correctly, we refrain from inflicting emotional and physical harm on one another. (both verbal and physical harm inhibits communication and learning and can fuel a variety of mental health issues).

So when is the right time to get help? Teaching children the appropriate ways to resolve conflict can become very overwhelming in the heat of an argument. When parties have had time to separate, breathe and calm down, examining their experience (Time-out), it can then be helpful to bring them back together to sort through the argument and develop solutions (Time-in).

Of course it is easier said than done, especially when habits have developed and conflicts are occurring frequently. Family counselling may allow all members to express their concerns in a respectful manner and learn new ways of resolving disputes.

In family counseling, families can establish goals for themselves as a family and individually. Together they learn to cope with stressful events that occur in their lives (relationships, school, work, etc.). In a safe, professional, therapeutic environment, families have the opportunity to enhance their relationships and create a strong support system for one another. Call us today … we can help.

Post Separation Thoughts and Behaviours Really Matter

Let’s consider why we think we may have a difficult time co-parenting with our ex-partners:

  • She/he has an addiction and refuses to get help.
  • Who knows who she/he will have around my child?
  • She/he has repeatedly lied and betrayed our trust.
  • We keep arguing.
  • I feel completely disrespected by my ex-partner, so why should I cooperate?
  • She/he has shown no interest in the care of this child!
  • We didn’t get along before so …

And BREATHE! Now that we have let all that out (and I’m sure we can express quite an extensive list of additional thoughts and feelings associated with our broken relationships), let’s consider just a few of the benefits of effective co-parenting:

  1. Children will feel more secure, relaxed and confident growing up with two involved and cooperative parents;
  2. Enhancement of children’s social, physical, spiritual, intellectual and emotional development;
  3. Parents actually improve their health and development as well;
  4. Positive examples and role models for children by working together through difficulties;
  5. Both of us have the pleasure of being cooperative, compassionate and mutually involved parents;
  6. Extended family members are able to remain more involved;

In his extensive review of the literature on the impact of separation and divorce, conducted for the Department of Justice Canada 2001, Ron Steward highlights  “a study of 51 families with an arrangement for joint physical custody, Steinman et al. (1985) identified a list of factors that lead to successful joint physical custody. Families who successfully maintained joint custody had the following qualities:

  1. respect and appreciation for the bond between the children and former spouse;
  2. an ability to maintain objectivity about the children’s needs during difficult periods of the 
divorce;
  3. ability to empathize with the point of view of the child and the other parent;
  4. ability to shift emotional expectations from the role of mate to that of co-parent;
  5. ability to establish new role boundaries; and
  6. show generally high self-esteem, flexibility and openness to help.” 

Separation or divorce can be an extremely difficult time for parents, and the children and extended family members involved. Feelings are hurt, people often choose sides (even though there are no sides in a family), distance is created (which is a normal part of any separation) and the emotional intensity and practical logistics of separating can inhibit parents’ attention to co-parenting for some time.

Co-parenting does work and is more likely when parents dig deep to develop the qualities listed above. With appropriate training, coaching, planning and practice, both parents will have the opportunity to create amazing lives for themselves, their children and extended family.

To improve your co-parenting by learning the how to strategies – book an appointment with us today!

Discover How To Play It Well

Receiving the confirmation of the diagnosis that our child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder brings with it a wide array of emotional and cognitive upheaval.  There may be initial shock, disbelief and even denial, often quickly followed by the common stages of grief and grieving.  Moving through the initial stages of grieving, parents may then shift, with intentional effort, to discover the possibilities and opportunities that children with Autism can have and offer… yes offer.

Parenting a child who follow the “normal” or most common developmental pathway versus one with developmental difficulties is a significantly different experience, one that many parents who have a child with ASD can attest to. Focus, attention, and time investments are higher for parents caring effectively for children with Autism (e.g. parents report it feels a lot like “24 hours a day, 7 days a week”… even into the teen and young adult years).

Government funded programs have become filled to capacity and the waiting list is often not months but years long. Some families have to secure second or third mortgages for private therapy. When this resource is not financially or practically possible, the responsibility lies with parents to train, teach, and implement every aspect of social and life skills for their children. Finding coaching for themselves, the resources and materials to assist their work with the children becomes another challenge tapping into parents’ energy stores.

So it is a different ball game! This struggle can become overwhelming; at times, exhausting and consistently stressful for the entire family. As much as there are resources to help children with autism (i.e., personal support workers, weekend relief programs, and some daycare services), there are few programs that help and support parents sufficiently.

At Jeff Packer MSW & Associates, we can help parents;

(1)   find new and creative ways to not just cope with life difficulties, but to excel at the game

(2)   by coaching you to design and practise a winning family relationship strategy, and

(3)   develop and maintain your essential support systems

To secure guidance and support for your parenting plan, Call us today … YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

Actually… It’s Not a Competition

Research indicates depression occurs twice as often in women as in men. There are additional risk factors that account for the increased likelihood that females will suffer from depression over males. Some of these added risk factors for females include: variance in hormone changes, puberty and premenstrual problems (e.g. bloating, breast tenderness, cramping, headaches and irritability). Another factor which is quite different for adolescent girls and women over boys and men, at least in developed countries, is females experience significantly higher levels of dysphoria and vulnerability related to physical appearance and body image.

These gender differences do not appear in pre-adolescent children. Risk factors become more apparent when they interact with the challenges of adolescence (e.g., physical appearance, dating, sexual experience and expression, and academic performance).

Why the gender difference?

Some may attribute the difference to the different stressors that males and females experience (Davidson, Neale, Blankstein, & Flett, 2002):

  • Single, teenaged mothers report higher levels of depression than married ones.
  • Women suffering from obesity tend to show more depressive symptoms.
  • Females have been statistically shown to be exposed to various forms of victimization than males.
  • Societal conditions can create more stressors on women than males, making feelings of empowerment more difficult for women to achieve.

Does Gender Difference Matter?

Although research may present the differences of mental health among males and females rather than gender, our attention should focus on adolescent healthy development.

How are we rearing and “coaching” both males and females as they approach adolescence? Are we preparing our children for this new phase in their lives? Do we parents and caregivers know what these conversations should look like? Is the communication within the family open, engaging, and supportive? How aware are we about their social, intellectual, emotional, sexual, spiritual and physical developmental changes and the impact upon their confidence and performance?

When we consider these questions, we become in tune to helping our children through difficult times and new phases in their lives. A strong, consistent and caring family supportive system:

  • increases the chance adolescents can effectively cope with their stressors and crisis points,
  • helps teens focus on more positive thoughts about themselves, their family members and friends,
  • promotes healthier behavioural choices related to daily challenges and experiences teens face.

Male? Female? We all have “issues” and challenges! For further resources on how to help your family through different stages of development and your young people with depression, anxiety or other common mental health issues, call us today!

“New Dad… Nobody Asks Me What I Think?”

I spoke with a young girl today and we were discussing the excitement and anticipation of Christmas. It was approaching fast and this year appears to have gone by so quickly. This was not a counselling session; just a casual conversation with a young friend.

A lot happened in your life this year.

Yah! I guess.

What did you like the most?

Summer time and my birthday pool party.

What didn’t you like so much about this year?

[A lengthened silence prior to her response]

Like… I’m happy to see my mom happy, but I don’t like that she got engaged. I like it but I don’t. I like him, he’s nice. But I don’t know what this means for me. I hear all these plans being made and no one asks how I feel. I’m happy I get to decorate my own room when we move though. Do I have to call him ‘dad’? What about my dad? Now I have two dads?

Sometimes parents attend to their own needs for love and companionship without having open communication with their children. This is especially true when parents determine their children are too young to have these types of conversations. Although we may attempt to keep our children’s best interests top of mind, when selecting and bringing a companion into their lives, it is still important to talk with our children, explore their feelings and concerns along with their positives.

When significant events happen in our lives, the strength of a co-parenting relationship can allow for the entire family to understand and celebrate special times. When the entire family takes part in open conversations, we foster improved understanding of each others’ view points, strengthen our connection as a family, and make adjusting to new members go more smoothly. In other words, we prevent frustrations and potential problems in advance.

Merging families sucessfully and enhancing co-parenting is best done with coaching from professional counsellors.  After twenty years of working with families, experience helps families cope with and adjust to difficult life changes. At Jeff Packer MSW & Associates, areas of support include the following:

  • Helping couples cope with separation/divorce, grieving and adjustment issues
  • Family structure assessment and re-establishing effective roles and rules
  • Establish a co-parenting communication plan and strategy
  • Identify goals for raising children in the most healthy and appropriate manner
  • Create safe and healthy boundaries between co-parents
  • Develop positive relationships with co-parents’ romantic partners
  • Improve communication skills; specifically, conflict resolution and problem-solving
  • Assist with crucial conversations in a non-blaming and accepting environment

Call us today to improve post-separation adjustment and co-parenting relationships. Why? Because you and your children are worth it!

Food Issues May Increase Over Holidays

Presents are great, laughter with family and friends is nice, but some of us believe that the real enjoyment of the holidays is the abundance of food. Special meals and traditional dishes are prepared this time of year. Some of us are very mindful of healthy eating now, so that we may fully indulge in the sometimes not-so-healthy meals we will have over the holidays.

As our aunts, mothers, and grandmothers gather in the kitchen, (men in some families too) and create what can only be described as magical aromas, it is sometimes difficult to keep in mind that members of our family require dietary support. Not only can some of us have severe food allergies (e.g. gluten, nuts, dairy), but some of us also require a lot more TLC (tender, loving care) during the holidays. Disordered eating issues can also be worse during the holidays and family get togethers.

“As she reached puberty, her thin frame began to fill out, raising concerns about the effects of her weight gain on her performance as a gymnast. She began to restrict her intake of food, but found that after several days of semi-starvation she would lose control and go on an eating binge. This pattern of dieting and binging lasted for several months, during which her fear of becoming fat seemed to increase. At age 13, she hit on the ‘solution’ of self-induced vomiting. She quickly fell into a pattern of episodes of alternating binging and vomiting three or four times per week,” (Davidson, Neale, Blankstein, & Flett, 2002).

Coping with disordered eating can be quite difficult over the holiday season.  Those suffering may feel like family members will be paying particular attention to them because they are the ones with “the problem.”  Uneasiness with meal times and menu planning is quite often present, making certain topics and particular foods become “off the table”. It may just be helpful to reduce tension by developing a “peace treaty” for the holidays, withdrawing stress raising topics and foods from the holiday menu because they are known triggers to unhealthy eating behaviours.

Over the Christmas holidays, we wish your family all the best as you cope with thoughts and situations that can easily hinder a fun-filled and relaxing holiday experience.

Should you want assistance with family relationship improvements and to recover from disordered eating patterns,  schedule your appointment for 2014 today!