Summer days, school holidays and happy children

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Summer is the ideal time to picnic with friends and let the children run free. Happy children are a joy to behold and bringing out the best in your children needn’t be hard work.

Allow your child to express their emotions, do not laugh, ridicule or humiliate them. Even if they are expressing emotions you find difficult to handle, do not withdraw or withhold your love. Ensure your child knows what you expect from him or her. Try not to send confusing and unclear messages. Remember, children are not mind readers. If you have a partner make sure that you are both singing from the same hymn sheet. Set clear rules and boundaries. We all like to know where we stand. Do not make idle threats. If you do impose sanctions, make sure you always carry them through, that way your child will know you mean business and they will learn to trust you.

Do not compete with your child or try to get one better over them. If you have broken up with the child’s other parent, do not say unkind, hurtful or critical things about them. No matter how unkind they may be, or how much you may be hurting. Fighting and point scoring can be a major source of anxiety to a child.

Sooner or later all children will express thoughts or emotions different from your own. Encourage them to be inquisitive and to explore new things and have experiences that you may never have experienced. This is how they learn. Your self esteem should not be linked to your child’s appearance, behaviour or how well they do academically. By all means, give praise for things well done, but do not punish or withhold love and approval if they do not do well.

When your children are misbehaving, remember they are not “bad” children. It is merely their behaviour that is “bad.” All behaviour means something. Step back and see if you can spot the meaning. Finally – Remember that children and adults have different needs and expectations. Children are not “mini grown-ups.” They want different things.

Until next time. Steve

You may wish to know that Steve is now offering therapy sessions via Skype Please contact us through our website @ www.stevecliffordcbt.com

Visit our facebook sites:

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

www.facebook.com/mgbhillclimbchallenge

Twitter @cbt4you

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                           Senior Accredited Integrative Psychotherapist.                                                                       Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AFelicidade_A_very_happy_boy.jpg

Medication for young people

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Here is a site that I will certainly be recommending. It is called “HeadMeds” and it has been launched by Young Minds (www.youngminds.org.uk), a website focusing on children and young people’s wellbeing and mental health (aged 13-25).

A survey was carried out in conjunction with the launch and it found that 49% of young people said they felt worried, 32% felt scared and 26% felt frightened when they were prescribed mental health medication. Half of those surveyed said that they wanted more information about side effects.

Headmeds is a funded by Comic Relief (www.comicrelief.com) and the Nominet Trust (www.nominettrust.org.uk) and the aim of the site is to provide information about potential side effects of medication and gives answers to questions that young people may have but not want to ask their G.P.

The website (www.headmeds.org.uk) is endorsed by the College of Mental Health Pharmacy as well as the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Until next time, with all good wishes,

Steve

Please feel free to email your blog posts for www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters to stevecliffordcbt@gmail.com                                                                                            

Visit us @ www.stevecliffordcbt.com 

Source

April 2014/www.therapytoday.net/Therapy Today

10 tips to improve your child’s emotional health

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Are you worried about your child’s emotional well-being? Well here are some tips that you might find useful. Happy children have good mental health, secure family relationships, enjoy good relationships with their peers and are emotionally balanced.

Here are ten suggestions worth following:

1. Encourage emotional expression.

Allow your child to express their emotions, whether that be anger, sadness, worry or fear. Do not laugh, ridicule or humiliate them. Even if they are expressing emotions you find difficult to handle, do not withdraw or withhold your love.

2. Be consistent.

Ensure that your child knows what you expect from him or her. Try not to send confusing and unclear messages. Remember, children are not mind readers. If you have a partner make sure that you are both singing from the same hymn sheet.

3. Rules are rules.

Set clear rules and boundaries. We all like to know where we stand. Do not make idle threats. If you do impose sanctions, make sure you always carry them through, that way your child will know you mean business and they will learn to trust you.

4. Do not compete with your child.

In other words do not try to get one better over your child. When they are upset do not try to outdo them and become more upset than they are. It is not their job to comfort you.

5. Do not put down your child’s other parent.

If you have broken up with the child’s other parent, do not say unkind, hurtful or critical things about them. No matter how unkind they may be, or how much you may be hurting. Fighting and point scoring can be a major source of anxiety to a child.

6. Foster independence.

Sooner or later all children will express thoughts or emotions that are different from your own. Encourage them to be inquisitive and to explore new things, meet new people and have experiences that you may never have experienced. This is how they learn.

7. Try not to bask in reflected glory.

Your self esteem should not be linked to your child’s appearance, behaviour or how well they do academically. Their performance does not reflect on you as their parent. By all means, give praise for things well done, but do not punish or withhold love and approval if they do not do well.

8. Their friends are not your friends.

Try not to get overly enmeshed in your child’s friendships. Make their friends welcome without becoming overly involved. When they get older try not to interfere with their love relationships.

9. Bad behaviour, not bad children.

When your children are misbehaving, remember they are not “bad” children. It is merely their behaviour that is “bad.”All behaviour means something. Step back and see if you can spot the meaning.

10. Children are children.

Finally – Remember that children and adults have different needs and expectations. Children are not “mini grown-ups.” They want different things.

Until next time.

With best wishes, Steve

Please feel free to email your blog posts for “Your Mental Health Matters” to stevecliffordcbt@gmail.com                                                                                              

Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist                                                          Visit us @  www.steveclifford.com

Ask us your mental health questions anytime @: www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

Tweet us @ cbt4you

Ref: “8 Surefire Ways To Emotionally Screw Up Your Kid,”Julie de azevedo Hanks, 8 March 2012, www.psychcentral.com [Accessed 29/03/14].

Image ref: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AFace_paint_girls.jpg

 

When children drive you to despair

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Emotional battles between adults and children are so commonplace. All parents at some time find themselves at breaking point. resisting the urge to smack is enough to test the strongest of Saints.

Have you ever felt at the end of your tether, worried you might end up doing something you might regret? Do you fear you might lose control? Sometimes it’s just as if they knew just what buttons to press, isn’t it? Children always seem to play up when you are tired and have a headache. It is almost as if they are doing it deliberately to test you and to find out your personal limits.

Tempting as it is, to use physical punishment, it is not really the answer. Not only is it assault, but as your child’s role model by hitting them you are legitimising the use of force. Even “light blows” can catch a child and knock them off balance and they may well fall risking further physical injury hitting their head on objects or landing on their spine rather than their bottom. A blow to the head can easily damage a delicate eardrum or eyes. Shaking a very young child can lead to whiplash injury and concussion as the brain is jarred against the inside of the skull.

Discipline is very much a part of good parenting, but we are talking about the kind of acceptable behaviour that comes about through the use of “positive reinforcement.” Praise and encouragement, if given when your child exhibits the type of positive behaviour you want to see, will pay off and you will find that the behaviour you do not want will gradually extinguish. It is important however, to explain in ways your child can understand why it is that they must not display negative behaviour

Did you know that the word “discipline” actually comes from the word “disciple” or “follower?” The key is for you to model the type of behaviour you want to see. Look at your life, is it full of rows and conflict? If so, this is the area to start. Create a pleasant nurturing environment and your offspring will flourish.

From a CBT perspective I would encourage you to keep a note (preferably written) when problems occur – record details such as the time of day, who is present, has your child eaten certain foods Be aware of the stimulant properties of certain sweets, particularly brightly coloured ones where additives may promote hyperactive behaviour. Also be aware of the amount of sugar consumed (excess sugar can cause spikes in mood and behaviour with rapid highs and lows). Take note also of the general atmosphere present and any other factors present.

Try to pre-empt problem behaviour before it occurs. Listen out for phrases such as “every time.” For example, “every time he plays with her…watches that programme…goes to his house.” Let “every time” be your cue. Try changing the routine, environment or other circumstances. Also be aware of the changing needs of your child and your child’s changing moods. Tiredness often manifests in problem behaviour.

Reduce stimulants. Computers, televisions and electronic gadgets can be over stimulating. Try turning down the volume, dimming the lights and reducing excess noise. Talk quietly to your child instead of shouting.

A quiet word, a gentle touch on the shoulder, a knowing look, may be all that’s needed. Nagging, shouting and “you wait!” are generally counter-productive.

Stop saying no. Listen and take note of the number of times you use the words “no” and “don’t” each day. Instead use positive alternatives such as, “Shall we try this,” or “let’s try that.” Use “I” statements when you can. Offering choices so that children can learn to make decisions will help foster self-esteem.

A smile or a hug is the key to creating a sense of well-being and therefore likely to reinforce the behaviour you are looking for.

Start young, even toddlers recognise facial expression and tone of voice. They learn very early when you are pleased and displeased.

Build a solid base. In the early years there is nothing children really want to do more than please their parents. Take full advantage of this time to teach children to care for their belongings, be polite and respectful, help with simple chores and be considerate of the feelings of others. This really will be time well spent.

Do not tease or taunt. Such behaviour is invalidating and really has a detrimental effect on the child’s personality and later development. In my book teasing, put- downs and humiliation are tantamount to abuse and very traumatic for the child.

Set a routine. Time for homework, time to wind down and time for bed are essentials. Along with routine comes boundaries. All of us need structure and to know what is expected of us. Try to stick to the same routine every day.

Tough love and firm kindness equals happy healthy children. Remember you are the authority figure. Try being Nelson Mandela rather than Attila the Hun.

Until next time, Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist

www.stevecliffordcbt.com

References:

“When the going gets tough…” Steve Clifford, ABC Magazine, 03-07 2002.

“How to Reinforce Good Behaviour in Children.” Elizabeth Grace

Image reference:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3A1849_-_Karikatur_Die_unartigen_Kinder.jpg

How to be a “good enough” parent.

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It’ s not easy being a parent. Despite all your best efforts, the drip, drip, drip effect of  demanding children, babies crying, nappies and housework, to name but a few, all add up to ensure a steady rise in stress levels. Of course, there will be times when you feel you’ve done brilliantly, but there will also be times when you chastise yourself and feel you have failed abysmally. At times it may seem that the demands are endless, but it need not be like this.

Begin today by taking the pressure off yourself.

Here are thirteen tips that might be helpful.

1.If you find yourself feeling as if there are too many demands on your time, make a list and then prioritise by breaking your list down into 3 parts – Needs, Wants and “Oughts.” “Needs” are top priority, “Have-to-get-done-right-now-or-there-will-be-consequences” sort of things. “Wants” are things you would really like to do if you had the time. While, “Oughts” are things you feel you ought to do to please someone else or because you think others would do them, such as, “I ought to cook a big family dinner on Sunday, just as my Mother did.” – From today, take care of your “Needs” first, then move on to the “Wants” and then only attend to the “Oughts” if you have time. The “Oughts” are no longer on any priority list.

2. Take a tip from twentieth century American Theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, who in his “Serenity Prayer,” tells us to, “Accept the things we cannot change, have courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

3. When your children are misbehaving, remember they are not “bad” children. It is merely their behaviour that is “bad.”All behaviour means something. Step back and see if you can spot the meaning. In CBT circles we talk about “front stage” and “back stage.” Front stage is what the world sees and back stage is what is really going on behind what we see. Think of “attention seeking” behaviour as “attachment seeking” behaviour, in other words, they want to be with you. Praise them when they are demonstrating the type of behaviour you regard as “good” behaviour. Also give yourself some praise.

4. Find time to breathe. Get into the habit of taking five minutes out for reflection, breathing and contemplation. Just five minutes quiet breathing can restore, calm and promote inner peace. Learning to meditate will help you to develop patience and greater tolerance, so that when your children are demanding you will be less irritable and better able to react calmly. Daily meditation (five minutes only) is all it takes, to gain a better perspective on life, where you will feel more relaxed, less out-of-control and your day will seem more manageable (see my November 2012 blog on Mindfulness Meditation).

5. Teach your children to meditate. Silly as this may sound, teaching children the tools to manage emotions such as stress or anxiety can be a godsend. You know what it is like to see your child having a tantrum, out of control and at the mercy of major upset.It is distressing for them and you. Well, showing them how taking deep breaths, learning to visualise a nice calm safe place can really help, furthermore, it will stand them in good stead to cope with the stresses and pressure of young life. Teaching children and young people to learn controlled breathing and use affirmations and visualisations is a key facet of my work with children in my private practice.  Something I thoroughly recommended to all parents.

6.Remember that children and adults have different needs and expectations. Children are not “mini grown-ups.” They want different things. If you are entertaining aim to reduce stress by focusing on the needs of the smallest and youngest. Adults will be able to appreciate what you are doing and why you are doing it. Everything from how long a child can sit still, concentrate or be quiet, is so different from an adult. If you go out, choose child friendly places, do not expect a child to “fit in.”

7. Surround yourself with positive energy. Avoid those friends who are stressed, tense or negative. Avoid the ones who are always bitching about other friends or moaning about their partners or life. Instead, find some friends who are happy and smiling. Learn about positive self-talk ( see my October 2012 blog on self-criticism) as this is an important way to reduce stress and maintain a positive frame of mind.

8. When those around you, whether it is Mother-in-law or your partner are critical this can really undermine your confidence, which will in turn affect your parenting. Apply the following:

  • Stay focused on the present, don’t drag up the past, this will not help.
  • Listen, don’t interrupt, don’t become defensive. Hear the others point of view and remember it is only their opinion. Now reflect back to let them know you heard them.
  • Try to see their perspective, let them feel understood. Get them to explain in more detail if you do not understand and give you examples.
  • Now respond calmly and take responsibility. Accept what is right to accept. Remember, if you feel you are being attacked you are likely either to retreat in shame or lash out and attack..
  • Instead of trying to “win,”look to compromise and try to find a solution or resolution. Remember,It is OK to get it wrong.

9. Rigidity and inflexibility are major sources of stress. Keep your plans flexible, there are countless ways that plans can change. Make allowances for change, have a plan B. If you are more relaxed then those around you will also be more relaxed.

10. As a young parent it is very important to get out and join mother and baby or toddler groups. Being a parent can be very isolating and the friendship of others can a real help when things look tough and lots of fun can be had.

11. There is an old saying, “Choose your battles wisely.” Sometimes, letting  things go is so much better and far less stressful than having mini battles on all fronts. With your children it is so easy to find fault, point out their mistakes and “correct” them. Instead, look to build your children up,to make them feel better, You have plenty of time to demonstrate to your children the right way to do things. Model the behaviour you want your children to adopt. Being a critical parent should not be one of them.

12. Let go of “multi-tasking.” I am not referring to low-functioning activities such as listening to music while you play with your offspring or leafing through a magazine while the television is on. No, I mean doing several things at the same time with your attention split across different things. If you listen to your child when they are speaking to you, they will feel appreciated and respected. Driving while answering your phone and keeping one eye out for the children in the back is positively dangerous. Being present in what you are doing, whether it is playing with your child, washing dishes or eating ensures, you are fully present in the moment.

13. When you find yourself pulling your hair our and are tempted to throttle your little darlings, STOP. Instant fury is triggered by reflex action and responses come from a small part of the brain known as the “amygdala” located in the”limbic centre” of the brain. This is the part of the brain responsible for the “fight or flight” response when we sense danger or threat. In the case of instant anger, the thinking part or “central cortex” has been bypassed. This is known as an “amigdula hijack.” By simply lengthening the fuse and counting from one to ten slowly, it will allow the thinking part of the brain to engage.

Remember, pause, step back and breathe.

With best wishes, Steve

Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist

Please feel free to email your blog posts for “Your Mental Health Matters” to stevecliffordcbt@gmail.com

Visit us @  www.steveclifford.com                                                                                      Ask us your mental health questions anytime at: www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters                                                                  Tweet us @ cbt4you

 

Image ref: Elisa Franci Gonçalves, Wikimedia Commons images, Adults with children. www.en.wikipedia.org/commons:Categories:Images

Recommended reading: “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and its all small stuff” by Richard Carlson, published by Hodder & Stoughton. www.hodder.co.uk