Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Good Parenting and Mental Health: Nature vs. Nurture!

At the Carlsbad Counseling Center  Nature vs. Nurture is taking on a whole new meaning and debate. The holidays (with their stress and challenges) can increase our awareness of the troubles that often we can work around or explain away...
Good well meaning parents are struggling with their adolescent and adult children. Many of these children are over using Alcohol and Marijuana.. But more clearly are the mental health issues that are propelling these young adults away from independence and success. The open letter by Liza Long titled I am Adam Lanza's Mother spoke openly of what so many parents kept secret... The Suicide of Pastor Rick Warren's son and the drug and suicide deaths amongst middle class families has pushed the realities of mental health into the public spot light. A new push by NAMI and churches to open the dialogue and educate the public about Mental Health has helped families find support while dealing with their loved ones...

But in every family and parents hearts there is the painful belief that it was something I did or didn't do.. If I would have seen the signs.. Made then do something... Seeing our loved ones struggle, refuse our help, rebel against our directions causes the greatest of agony, anger and frustration... You begin to see the homeless in a different way.. knowing that one day your son or daughter could be them... You hear about tough love but this needs to be tempered with appreciation for your child's limited tolerance of anxiety, stress and frustration...

Families need, Moms and Dads need counsel, support and guidance.. not only in how to support and deal with their challenged love ones.. But also to deal with the grief, frustration and lost dreams that they themselves have had to grieve...

Mental Health is not only nurture.. that would make it easy to judge.. But it very much is predominately Nature...
If you are a parent of a teen or adult struggling with Mental Health Issues... find friends you can confide in, seek out a therapist or counselor to process your loss and frustrations and KNOW... you love your child and you did not cause your child's (bio-physiological) diagnosis...

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Appetizers and the Main Course... Why have the Main Course when the Appetizers were horrible?

The other day I was talking to a client about her struggles of being with family over Thanksgiving... It is a very unhealthy situation and although she prepared she could not control the poor behavior of others.... She called as she wanted to learn how to prepare for round 2: Christmas (you can read Hanukkah also if you like)!

Holidays are always bittersweet, whether you come from a wonderful family and are far from home, a loved one has passed away, your first year married (this creates all sorts of stress which I can cover at a latter time) or your family has never been a positive source of support and love.

I feel for many, attending holiday functions and family events are a right of passage, You have the opportunity to show how you have matured, glean insight into your own history and create a legacy for the generations to come... For you I say, the appetizers may not have been to your liking and you may not be looking forward to the main course... But you will come away with positive memories and saying it wasn't so bad.... Remember, children have to have Christmas and Holiday memories that are positive.. What irritates you may go un-noticed to your children. And you are teaching them tolerance for other cultures, even within your own family tree.

This is for those that have a level of pain and dysfunction in their families that the Appetizers ( Thanksgiving) caused so much heart burn and internal distress that going back for the Main Course is not the smart or wise choice. For you I challenge you to step away from the table and make another plan. You do not have to explain in detail to family why you are not there.. You can be polite and let them know that you cannot make it as you have other plans. Keep it short and polite.
If you are single, married or with a partner, start your own family traditions that are unique to you... Celebrate the best parts of the holidays: Loved ones and those that love you, Friends , Great Food and a time to recenter your spiritual focus for the coming year!

Happy Dining!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving and may the Holiday Marathon Begin!

Happy Thanksgiving and we are off on the holiday marathon... 

For many this is a joyous time for others it brings up memories bittersweet of times past, and for many.. it is planning how to get thru this Holiday Season... 

Please do something for yourself each day, find one piece or topic of compassion for each person you are dreading to see... 
We cannot control what and how others say, do and view us.. BUT YOU can decide how to respond and how to set a healthy boundary.. 

Enjoy the good parts of the upcoming month and separate the negative... Stay calm and be good to yourself.... 

Be and Behave the best you can.. Treat others the way you want your children to treat you... :)

Let the marathon begin... 
What ever your religious or spiritual beliefs.. Have a Blessed Holiday Season.... 
Kendall

Monday, June 9, 2014

No Bullies... Yes for childhood

It has been almost a year since I first posted about how we need to address emotions with our children in regards to bullies.... I had received a lot of feedback and statistics related to why the suicide rate is so high among the victims of excessive bullying... and I understand this...
since then many famous people have jumped on the No Bulliess theme, which is good...
For those that may have a child that is struggling with this as the receiver of the bullying and harassment. Please take note of what I would suggest you do to monitor your child.
1. Be inquisitive. Your child will not share what is going on.. (too painful to talk about)
2. Open ended questions.. not ones that can have a yes or no answer...
3. Check Facebook and other social media sites.. to keep a pulse on what is happening.
4. If concerned, get help.. and ask your child who they can talk with if not you (the parent).

There is a line between being concerned and overstepping sensitive adolescent boundaries.. Do not use concerns to justify invasive actions.. but if the signs of excessive bullying exists then do not ignore.

Bullying will never go away.. mean girls, low man on the totem pole, and many other terms have been used for years.. but what I am discussing in this post is the excessive harassment that invades all areas of a child's life.
 I have spoken about this a few times in counseling sessions but have been hesitant to put my thoughts down on paper.... until now. This needs to be addressed from a parents perspective. While also changing the way we handle the bullies in our children's and our own lives.
Every few months we hear about individuals of all age groups and genders that have chosen suicide as a way to escape the bullying in their lives.  THIS is not about blaming the victim.. and I understand the deep loss these families bear...
     This is about how we deal with the fall-out. We want to stop the bullying so this doesn't happen.. I am not pro-bully.. practically speaking bullying has always been around in one form or another.. In this technologically connected world.. the reprieve is not there as it has been in the past... this does make it harder to cope.. reasons for this will be discussed in another post.
     We cannot turn back the clocks of technology.. we need to send the message to our children. that they can handle mean things and actions of others.. they may never stop the bully but they can learn to handle it..
     Parents have become so overly involved in their children's lives that many have crossed from caring and nurturing to rescuing and over involved. This sends the messages that:
  1.  you can not handle life and any attack on your feelings is to much for you to deal with
  2.  the painful events of normal life need to be avoided..
  3.  emotions are what you base your decisions on

The messages that needs to be sent are:
  1. as you grow up.. you can handle what life throws at you including mean people
  2.  we need to support our children on the road of hard knocks. not rescue them because it is hard for us watch and to deal with.. that isn't parenting.
  3. teach our children to over ride impulsive behavior.. most often triggered by emotion. Be aware of how you feel but think  through the situation and problem solve..

     We must help our children problem solve and learn to cope with the real world..
As parents we can be supportive and encouraging and have their backs.. they can know they are not in this alone.. but we are beside them not in front of them to clear their paths..

     Years ago.. parents were un-involved, then  the pendulum swung to over involvement.. now it is time to rest in the middle.

(writers note: The intensity, cruelty and ways to cope with this new level of Bullying will be covered in another blog)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Welcome to Summer.. Now What.. a guide to the Summer Crazies...

Welcome to Summer... now what....
I am starting to get moms and dads coming in and counting the days until School Starts! And it is only June. I could get into why such a long break or why the break seems so much longer then in the past... but this is a practical blog.

First: People should not be entertained at all times. Everyone has a backyard, pool, park or beach. Take your children and have each child take a friend when possible (this way you are not the focus of their activities).

Challenge: Do not take the Game boys, X-Box or other items...they inhibit a child's ability to learn to self direct. This may seem impossible.. start with one outing a week game free...

Rule 1. Let them figure out what to do and how to do it...Play is a child's work.

Rule 2. Let them be bored.. without boredom there can be no self initiation of activities.

Rule 3. IGNORE, IGNORE and IGNORE.. the I'm bored, there is nothing to do and other sayings.

Rule 4. We, out of our own discomfort, rescue our children from themselves. This is a dis-service to their ability to grow into responsible and capable adults.

Let them learn through trial and error how to navigate friends, playgrounds, cul de sacs and community pools.

Rule 5. Have a paper day timer and use it.. structure your time with your needs and your to do list on there also... you are setting an example by focusing on what needs to get done and to balance your time. It also helps the crazies when you know what the end point is to any activity...

There are lots of why you can't do this in today's world.. there are also lots of ways to make this happen and take a big step into giving our children and teens a life outside of fear and micro-management. This doesn't make you a bad parent.. just one that sees the big picture!

Happy Summer!

--
        Kendall Wagner,MFT

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Community Happy Hour!

This is not meant to offend.. but hopefully to increase awareness.. all across the country.. a modern version of an old theme is causing chaos and pain...

In the "good ol days" there was happy hour or a cocktail before dinner....
Now... it has morphed into the neighborhood happy hour and is now called.. "letting the children play together" or a neighborhood gathering.
All or most of the moms and dads fill up their cups or glasses with wine or other liqueurs, then announce to the children.. lets go out and play...
this usually takes place in a cul-de-sac, front yard of a house with a well stocked garage fridge, or the neighborhood park...
Parents, the children know that you are really there to drink, you are embarrassing them and setting very poor examples...
I am not saying that going out to have a drink is bad.... but do not veil it in a play date or going out for the children...
Play dates, children's activities and alcohol should never mix.
The results, will keep Carlsbad Counseling Center in business for years.. in crisis mode.. not growth related therapy...
The fall out is devastating short term and the long term habits you are teaching will cause devastation in the future... if you noticed.. this is a big pet peeve of mine.

The most important part of parenting is how we live not what we say.



Sunday, May 18, 2014

Raising Children on a budget..Naturally.

When you think of parenting you think of school, home, church and extra curricular activities... 
These are all great areas and children need a balanced life and exposure to many different experiences and opportunities.. 

In speaking with a client the other day, the cost of being a good parent got brought up. 

There are many issues that need a financial commitment... But not all...There is the thought that more money makes better children.. That is not the case.. Disclaimer here.. I am referring to those that food and shelter are in place. 

Here are just a few examples:
Swimming: one doesn't need a high end country club.. the Y or community pools also offer swim lessons and open swim.

Nature and the environment: Beaches, mountains and other picnic areas are at your disposal.. 

Science enrichment: Most communities have after school and summer camps at a reasonable rate.. and even better.. your own backyard.. there are tons of things for children to explore outside at home.

Art appreciation: Go to the library, check out art books, go on line and do virtual tours and when able visit museums..practice drawing at home and comment on pieces you see in public..  

Integrating these areas into everyday life, conversations and activities instills an appreciation and love of learning...Again, integrating... not an intense focus then on to the next.... 

The most expensive programs are not always the best... and again, if the interest isn't at home in these areas.. it is very difficult to instill an appreciation through a camp or class. 

The most important part of parenting is how we live not what we say.
upcoming posts: using nature in parenting, creating an inquisitive home environment to extend learning naturally, balancing our own childhood memories with creating new memories for our children.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Coping with the Aftermath of the San Diego Fires and other tragedies for Children and yourself

This is a short post giving some direction as to what to do now... 
The past week has been traumatic for everyone in the county... Thousands were evacuated not knowing if their homes were going to be left standing... 
In reality, we mourn the loss of the homes and businesses and yet we are grateful that for the majority of people, their homes are saved...
It is the personal experience that takes more time to heal... 
Please allow yourself to talk about how scary it was....
 for children, take them to the beach, give them paper and crayons let them act out the events in their play. It may be very uncomfortable what you observe but this is spontaneous therapy and must be allowed to happen. Any semi unstructured activities allow them to freely process and you as a parent do not have to be overly focused or have to intervene... 

In the weeks that follow, do not be surprised if you or your children relive or are hyper sensitive to the sights and smells of fire.. Once you have experienced any trauma or lived through a tragedy the idea that it can happen again becomes very real... 

You or your children may find counseling or therapy helpful.. with this said.. Please give your children time to work it through... Not ever event that has an impact requires therapy. I have said often  "many times it is not the trauma or tragedy but how the family and care givers handle the emotional fall out..." 

Sometimes it is good for the parents to come in and process so at home they can be safe containers for their children's emotions. 

There are signs that children do need to come in.. but please wait for two or three weeks before deciding that they may need counsel. 
I will post next week as to what to look for.... (not posting now, as early on the signs may be there.. it is with time if they do not diminish that therapy may be considered)

Even with the best of circumstances, therapy may be indicated, but a watch, wait and observe approach is recommended...

Thursday, May 15, 2014

San Diego Fire Storm 2014 and being prepared

Carlsbad Counseling Center and our home are in Carlsbad, Ca. While this is a beautiful area, fires are a threat each year... 
Being prepared ahead of time not only helps you stay safe it helps you prepare your children for an emergency.. 
When you are able to calmly bring your belongings and family together, it lowers the trauma for all.. especially children.. It is very difficult to see mom and dad panicked and out of control.. 
Please know it is expected to have some level of anxiety.. but knowing your plan and items to take is important.. This can also apply to those in tornado ally or when ever you are told to evacuate... 
 Although NOT ALWAYS possible, actually put your must take items together, have pics of valuables you will not be able to take and have a list to work off of.. here is ours.

For us, we took pics, meds and only a few docs (most docs in cloud storage) and of course the cats.. 
in fact we have our fire evacuation stuff listed.. but cant always get everything. Knowing ahead of time helps with not forgetting a valuable heirloom or doc.
How about others?

Now the fires are starting to calm.. remember the children are watching you and how you cope with disasters.. Children are more traumatized by how adults handle crisis most of the time more then the crisis itself...

So... slow, steady and take time to talk to your children about the plan.. ask them what two items they would take.. It helps them feel involved... 

This is not the usual post.. but did want to give parents some direction for over the next few days.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How to choose a psychotherapist...the best therapist will not always be liked by you...


First of all, it is important to know, that although we can be kind and supportive, a therapist is not your best friend. This means they will be honest and challenge you when a friend may just agree..
Second, for all of you that have heard a friend say their therapist didn't help or said something mean. Remember two things:
 first, a therapist can not change you only help you see parts of you that you can't see yourself. We all have blind spots. 
And second:  in my own private practice this gets the most frustrated responses, you cannot change someone else or get them to be different, only change yourself and your responses to sometimes very painful situations.

How to choose a therapist.
Feel free to call and ask questions. Such as, how do you work, what is your emergency policy and what are your fees? Not all therapists will do this.. but I do and I am not alone... spend some time talking with the therapist on the phone and see how comfortable and open they are.. No ethical therapist is going to give you a free session.. [ethically once a person is in the office, they are a client... so  both the therapist and client need to be somewhat comfortable prior to meeting in person]
You want a therapist that you feel comfortable with and confident in. The therapeutic relationship will be a very intense and challenging one. You want someone, that will always be honest and direct and available if needed.
Be willing to make the commitment, opening up past history and relationships can be painful, stay the course. Ask the therapist how the goals and treatment plan is created... I work with the client to create a treatment plan.. others will share after they have created the course of care.
Make sure you understand the cancellation policy.. I require a 48 notice .. (emergencies do come up and can be taken care of as they arise)
Payment, if using insurance, have them check benefits before you start.. I do not take insurance but can provide a receipt appropriate for PPOs to possibly reimburse you.. 
How and where is your file and do you have access?... I provide a summary upon request and have all files in a HIPPA approved file program. The handling of your information must be disclosed and agreed upon prior to therapy.. this will be part of the informed consent for treatment.
Last but not least; how can you contact the therapist between sessions?. ..I am available via email and limited text.. 

How the therapist responds to questions is as important as the actual answers.. some policies are professional preferences but they are set policies... 

To sum it up... have a phone conversation with the therapist prior to meeting.. make sure you ask questions and that the therapist is forthcoming with information that maybe you didn't think to ask... 

Therapy is an important and in depth growth experience.. you need a therapist you can be honest with... 




Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sexual Intimacy and Relationships

Most couples know that when they come in for Pre-Marital counseling they will be covering:
1. Finances
2. Differences in Family backgrounds
3. Each persons expectation
4. Goal for the marriage
5. Maybe touch on sexuality or the role of sexual intimacy in the marriage. (if you do pre-marital with me.. you will be covering this)

When married couples come in. Understandably they are focused on the issue at hand. What most often happens is that when you take the pulse of the relationship in general.. the above top 5 are also causing some problems. Once we have clarified the presenting problem and also have done a physical of the overall relationship.. there are usually one or two areas that need to be addressed.

The area that I want to touch briefly on today is #5. The sexual intimacy and the perspectives, thoughts, preconceived ideas and values that each person places on various activities. (This will not be graphic ).
Because this is one of the most uncomfortable areas for couples to talk about.. it actually can be easier with a therapist that is able to structure the time and provide a safe frame work.
*A sexual history (not just activities but family views are important.)
*Each persons level of desire and how often or how comfortable are they with sharing their
desires.
*What are the expectations of the sexual relationship with-in the marriage and where do you
stand on the issues of pornography, masturbation , toys and role playing. Yes these are not easyto talk about.. but they must be openly discussed and clarified.

Because they are not easy for couples to talk about even in the best of circumstances, when these issues become a problem in the marriage they do not get resolved quickly and they tend to spill over into other areas.
Finally, creating a safe environment for both people to share there desires and perspectives is essential. The other person may not agree.. but it is important to know and understand your partner.

This does not mean that the couple will decide that all types of behavior, activities and extras are acceptable. But it does allow each person to be more open to creating a more healthy and fulfilling relationship sexually and in the relationship at a whole.

www.CarlsbadCounselingCenter.com

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy ????? Mother's Day

Today is one of the most painful days for many people. Either you have lost a mom, had a horrific one , had a wonderful one... or on the other side, you are waiting to be acknowledged... and for you there can also be pain, having lost a child, emotional separation or what is also common... kids either forget or  see it as an obligation... 

Be careful (ladies) not to judge your maternal commitment to the size of or thought put into a gift or call... or even if you may or may not get the card or call.... 

SO.. do one thing nice for yourself today, Men, Women... you are connected to a mom somewhere or are a mom to someone out there.....

Be kind to others and take care of yourself today..  Right or Wrong, today has now become (WRONGLY) a measurement of a woman's worth to her family... and because of all the dynamics this tends to bring out raw emotion in all.... 

Here is an article that shows the somber beginnings of this holiday.. Mothers Day

For those of you that have a wonderful Mother's Day, enjoy and relish it..and cherish the moment.. 

for everyone else.. 

Happy be kind to yourself and others day!!

Kendall

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Signs of a healthy relationship... Warning you can't make these happen.. but they must be there.

Caring for somebody needs to be equal to them caring about them self. 


Codependency is taking responsibility for someone else's actions.


 Interdependency is respecting the other person as much as you respect yourself.Trusting each other to care and love each other as one.



No relationship should be a project.. if that is your desire, then volunteer... 

To be in a mutually respected and loving relationship, you must trust the other person wants what is best for you and for themselves equally... 

If not.. then for what ever reason.. it isn't time to for the relationship to grow...

Kendall Wagner, MFT
Carlsbad Counseling Center

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Mother's Day and Maturity

As a psychotherapist, I see people at different stages and ages of life...
as Teens- there tends to be rebellion and a false sense of grandiosity...
as an Adult- there tends to be a bit of fear on launching out on their own....
as a Parent- there tends to be anger at what parents didn't do and some following of their parents paths....

BUT.. when one matures... there tends to be an appreciation of what we put our parents thru and how they themselves had emotional challenges and struggles...

As a parent and an individual, we must appreciate in ourselves and others that we ALL go thru each of these phases.. it is a normal part of life...

As our population ages, I am seeing a growing appreciation for our parents and respect (just maybe) for our elders beginning to emerge...

So with Mother's Day coming up.. (politics of the holiday aside)....
Look at what your mom did that was good... there are plenty of other days to look at her  human faults..

Mother's Day is also a day to forgive ourselves for bringing our parents along for our emotional growth seasons in our own lives.... this is a sign of Maturity...

There is a season for all things.. Focus on the relationships you have now...