The pornographic industry has been at my fingertips since I began to develop an interest in it, at the age of 13.  With the progression of technology, it has only gotten more accessible.  To date, it’s as easy as checking my “new follower” notification on twitter. At least once a week, I will get followed by a cam girl or pornstar and with the click of a button, I have entered the ironically named “adult entertainment” portion of the Internet.

I think the accessibility of porn these days scares a lot of parents and the knee-jerk reaction is often to use an onslaught of parental controls, monitoring apps and other types of software to spy on your own children.  I gather that the general public realizes this is like trying to contain a wildfire with a standard home extinguisher.  Simply labeling it as out of bounds only makes teenagers want to rebel and cross the line. So, when a product is as compelling as porn, there’s no need to add to its seductive lure by making it “forbidden”. Switch out “forbidden” for a synonym, “naughty” and it’s pretty clear that the message is destined to backfire.

If we have learned anything from the failure of the war on drugs, informing the public about the risks and rewards of drugs, from a non-biased standpoint, is the answer to preventing misuse and addiction. Porn should be treated for what it is, a drug just like alcohol or marijuana. Whether it’s opening up the “Incognito” browser, rolling up a joint or mixing a rum & coke; all of these actions are done to provide a release from reality and stimulate a pleasure response in the brain.

“Cambridge Neuropsychiatrist Valerie Voon was featured last year in the UK documentary, “Porn on the Brain”. Her research demonstrates that the brains of habitual porn users show great similarity to the brains of alcoholics. A brain structure called the ventral striatum plays a significant role in the reward system of the brain—the pleasure pathways. It is the same part of the brain that “lights up” when an alcoholic sees a picture of a drink.” (Source: covenanteyes.com, Title: Brain Chemicals and Porn Addiction: Science Shows How Porn Harms Us).

So let’s talk about it for what it is. Porn is a drug and the only way to help your kid understand how to deal with the temptation is to have that seemingly awkward talk. Converse about what’s going on in their brain and why their body reacts the way it does to that type of virtual stimulation. It will remove some of the shame associated with having a sexual desire and the frustration of their inability to act on it during those uncomfortable pubescent years.

The positives shouldn’t be left out. Masturbation has been a thing for thousands of years for a reason. Sometimes that sexual release breaks some of the tension and allows me to be calmer or less “on edge” for a period of time. I had a conversation with my dad when I was 13 that resonated with me. We spoke about porn/masturbation and how it’s associated with lustrous thoughts. If those thoughts are left unmanaged, they can be detrimental to a person’s patterns of thinking and damage other areas of one’s life. I didn’t stop watching porn, but at least when I did, I questioned the morality behind what I was doing and recognized it as an unrealistic depiction of sexual behaviour.

Trust your teenagers to start thinking about their actions like the young adults they are. Inform them without judgment and make them feel less alone in the matter. It’s probably the first recreational drug we are exposed to and, if approached properly, it can provide a healthy foundation for the ones we will encounter later.

(This post was contributed anonomously by a young adult)
Photo credit: Seemann from morguefile.com

Where do I find my worth?

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(Submitted by a young man under extreme family duress due to health concerns)

I’ve struggled with a lot of anxiety and depression in the past, and still some today. When I was in high school, I would often be so anxious about my schoolwork that I wouldn’t even be able to complete it. I would convince myself that I was not going to do a good enough job, and as such I shouldn’t even try. With the help of some counselling, I was able to get through, but I was still often consumed by anxiety over the fear that I didn’t do enough.

In university it was mostly the same story. Towards the end of my first year I had a revelation. My dad would often message me, saying that he was proud of me. I would brush it off, asking myself why he would be proud of me while my marks were falling and I was dropping classes. And then I realized that he was proud of me regardless of how I was doing in school. This struck me, and I asked myself why I was worrying about school as if it would change how my parents loved me. I was tying my worth to my performance in school, which was making me miserable.

Once I realized this, I wondered where my worth actually was. If it wasn’t in school, or my actions, where was it? I realized that because Christ died for me, and bought me with his blood, my worth is in him. I don’t have to fear others, or myself, because my confidence is in Him.

Do I still have days where I don’t feel good enough, and am anxious, and struggle? Yes, I do. But I can come back to the fact that no matter what happens, He still loves me.

 

Ephesians 2:8-9 states For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (ESV).

Setting Healthy Boundaries?

When we get a first sight at our newborn child, we are overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings: feelings of love, joy, happiness, and excitement. Sometimes, we may anticipate fear, grief and worry. We may question how we keep this perfect little bundle in our arms perfect as a toddler, child, teenager, and adult. We ask how we might instil core values and life lessons so that our child does not make the same mistakes that we did.

We are excited to be a part of this perfect being’s growth and development but at the very same time, also nervous. We may sometimes feel that we have to give our child “everything”, however, is “everything” too much?  Tough to know when we are doing this for the first time 🙂

Setting healthy, appropriate boundaries with our children may be the best teaching/gift that parents can provide. When we create a balance in our disciplinary approach we improve the chances for healthier relationships.  We establish mutually respectful guidelines, clarity in communication and increased understanding of roles in the family.

Sometimes our own thoughts and feelings can make boundary settings difficult. “Will they (our children) hate me?” “I don’t want to be a bad parent.” “What if this doesn’t work?” “Is it too late to create a boundary now?” Our own upbringing or experiences growing up, left unattended to in our subconscious, may unknowingly influence our parenting approach in less than desirable ways.

Recognizing and responding to these inner thoughts in a healthy way is an important aspect to effective parenting.  Historic thoughts arising from time to time is normal, some serve to guide our path while others may actually block healthy development for us and out children. Learning about and practicing effective healthy boundary setting may not only offset feelings of uncertainty, but may surprisingly increase a more confident and relaxed approach to parenting.

Call us today to work on increasing parenting competency through increased awareness, skill sets and with the creation of effective boundaries for you and your family.

 


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Online Consideration: A Developing Art

With the advance of online chat, social media presence and virtual relationships, there seems to be an increase in discussion about the pros and cons our virtual interaction has on health and upon our social lives in general.

Are we giving up too much, lagging in social skill development, to gain the appearance of anonymity, a level of apparent safety as we hide behind firewalls and masked IP addresses? What cost to social health and wellness exists from online interactions and virtual relations which are all too often void of facial expression, tones and clarity of emotional context… no… emoticons don’t quite cut it 🙂 ? 

Are we exposing too much, “wink wink”, while revealing too little. What impact on our integrity and honesty does this relatively newer technology actually have? Imagine developing a relationship with someone with the following qualities. How well do you think it would go? You be the judge…

Potential Online Presentation of Self  (vs. Face-to-Face) 

Less inhibited – less restricted, freer to speak up?

Talk more, more open and opinionated online?

Revealing parts of self perhaps more impulsively?

Less protective or more protected?

Speech & tone absent or limited?

Harmful… risk factor?

Confused privacy boundaries?

Less or more accountability?

Can possibly be creeped, harassed, bothered more easily?

Cut out or cut off quickly, even immediately?

Hectic, rushed and more or less emotionally charged?

Missing much expression via face and tone?

Of course, many of us have heard stories of relationships developing online and those who have met one another, at least initially, with success. Steps can be taken to safeguard online activity beginning with limiting children to an hour or so per day. Additional time can be rewarded for additional involvement in other socially rewarding activities. These may include playing with friends, completion of homework, household chores or various hobbies such as sports, music, art etc..

Additional screen time may also be given in return for extracurricular reading and writing, math or whatever skill you feel your child requires extra effort in.  The formula may be one to two, so for fifteen more minutes of piano or English homework your child gets thirty more minutes online time whether gaming or accessing social media. This approach is best viewed as a “win-win”.

Getting children and adults involved in activities “offline” seems to require effort and I feel somewhat hypocritical as I sit here writing this blog post… lol 🙂 . Suffice it to say that attention to healthy child and family development requires a regular review of our online involvement, presentation and the development of integrity even in, perhaps especially in our “virtual world”.


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Parenting Our Children & Parenting Ourselves

Promoting mental health involves building awareness, reducing the stigma often attached with the term and, of course, developing strategies to improve our overall mental health. Just as we strive to improve our physical health, we are wise to learn more about our mind, mind-body connection and find ways to strengthen the health of our minds.

One of our local school boards has recently taken steps to do just that.  The Durham Catholic District School Board (DCDSB) has developed a strategy called “Together For Mental Health 2014-2017”. In a recent newsletter they lay out a guide for parents, however, we might all benefit from following these principles;

10 Strategies for Parents to Foster Positive Mental Health”  

1. Create a sense of belonging – build strong, positive relationships

2. Encourage good physical health, including adequate sleep, healthy eating and exercise

3. Make time for regular family meals

4. Encourage creative outlets

5. Develop your [inner] child’s competencies

6. Keep the lines of communication open

7. Model good mental and physical health habits [hang with people that do]

8. Have a predictable routine

9. Foster volunteering and helpfulness

10.Bring fun and playfulness into you and your [loved ones’] lives

Adapted from DCDSB newsletter outlining their mental health and addictions strategy

 


 Photo credit: JessicaGale from morguefile.com

Are Our Phones Smarter Than We Are?

Smart phones are like our very own personal assistants (who we can even have a conversation with).  Appointments, dinner dates, meetings, and deadlines are recorded to keep us on track.  Email and Internet access are easy to use with the touch of a button.  We can even scan prices of items when we shop (who needs customer service?). We no longer even have to wait in bank lineups to manage our accounts.

Because of the accessibility that smart phones provide, we often feel a need to have them around us 24/7.  They wake us up in the morning (sometimes before) and even follow us to our bathroom.  Somehow, we have adopted the habit of our phones joining us at the dinner table or while eating in restaurants.  When do we consider our phones as intruders in our lives? Possibly when we can answer yes to any of the following questions:

  • Do you have more conversations with your phone than with people around the dinner table?
  • Do you text members of your family within the same household when they are just in another room?
  • On vacation, is one of your first questions an inquiry about wi-fi?
  • Do you allow phone interruptions to take precedence over your current person-to-person conversation?
  • Does your phone accompany you to the bathroom?  (Really?)

Smartphones can have a significant impact on children’s social development.  An article from Dr. Michael Gabriel from GPM Pediatrics says that “children are missing out on how to learn language, learn about their emotions and how to regulate them, learn how to carry out a conversation and how to read each other’s facial expressions.”

Can we come to a consensus that we may be addicted to our phones and that, until now, we didn’t fully realize the impact they have on our lives, well being, and relationships with others?

There are easy ways to reduce the time with our phones.  Counselling isn’t likely to help you decrease dependency on your “smart” phones, however, short-term counselling can help rebuild relationships and develop the social skills required to maintain healthy relationships.  Contact us today!

 

 


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Composure Under Pressure

“After months of not hearing from my co-parent [trust me when I say it is difficult to use this term ‘co-parent’ rather than other names which easily come to mind… including “ex”], he makes contact with meet regarding the baby I am carrying. Our conversations when finding out about my pregnancy were difficult and created conflict. He repeatedly indicated that he did not want this child. I eventually took those words as not wanting me in his life either.

For sure as days went by I questioned whether I’d hear from him again. Sometimes I hoped I would hear that he just needed some time to sort things out and has come to the realization that he wants this family we have created.  Only in my dreams…

Although I did not know how this meeting would turn out or what exactly would be discussed, I prepared myself. I read articles and books on co-parenting. I took advice from these resources to help minimize conflict. My goal out of this first meeting was to prevent future meetings from requiring lawyers, judges, or mediators.

This goal was achieved because although my now co-parent could not indicate what his contribution or role as a parent would be, I guided the conversation with my plans as a co-parent. I had organized what expenses to consider. I asked questions about his considerations of being a part of our child’s life. I focused on specific questions regarding the baby, leaving out the previous romantic relationship.

Now don’t get me wrong. A tiny voice within me wanted to rage out of my body, questioning his disappearance act. I wanted to ask, ‘what about us?’ I wanted to receive a heartfelt, well-deserved apology for his behaviour and disrespect towards me. However I had to ask myself if it was worth it. Would it really make me feel better forcing an apology out of someone who didn’t care to give it in the first place?

Articles and books on co-parenting indicate the importance of letting break ups, divorce, or separation go. Take time to grieve but move past this part of your relationship. This may be the most difficult part of the co-parenting process, especially when we tend to seek closure from our ex-partners. If we keep chasing for answers, we are not accepting the relationship has ended. Thus, we tend to dwell in the hurt and pain of broken relationships even longer and risk even higher conflict.

This can result in a high-conflict co-parenting relationship as well and, subsequently, be detrimental to the innocent children. Overcoming a break up or divorce as well as coming to a mutual partnership between co-parents significantly strengthens the growth and development opportunities of children. For more information and coaching on how to develop the harmony to co-parent effectively contact us today .

   LIVE HARMONIOUSLY!

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