What does domestic violence teach children?

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Domestic violence is a private matter that has been brought into the public eye much in part to the NFL and the poor decisions of some football players. Many of us have heard the story about Ray Rice's wife and about their troubled marriage. Much of the talk about domestic violence is usually spent discussing what the parents are experiencing and although this is important, I ask "what about the kids?" Many people do not realize how domestic violence impacts a child's physical, mental and emotional development. 

By witnessing domestic violence a child can learn.....   

that hitting or yelling at others is an appropriate way of communicating 
hitting or yelling equals respect 
by hitting or yelling other people listen to you
physical strength is more important than anything else
to have difficulty trusting other adults and parents
to fight peers at school and break things at home
that a foundation for a relationship is fighting 
in all relationships someone must be submissive
physical strength is emotional strength
that all men or women are violent (depending on who is the abuser) 
the poor ability to cope with stress or anxiety 
the poor ability to resolve problems without fighting or arguing 
to have low self esteem related to self blame for the domestic violence
to be afraid when other people are yelling around the 
to hide their problems in the face of fear 
to not trust mom and dad since they can barely trust themselves 
to be insecure with themselves and others 
and that all adults are violent people  


Domestic violence is violence against a family unit, everyone is impacted. Children are very much affected by what they see and hear at home. A simple verbal argument among adults can start a downward spiral in their young minds. If you or someone you know is in a domestic violence relationship, I ask that you please find help, maybe not for yourself but definitely for your children. 

Parents have no fear, August is here!

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As the days of the new school year are slowly approaching, the summer calm is winding down. Parents are excited for their children to leave the house and be back at school. As much as I hear parents cheering, their children are not. Now if we could all just be on the same page? 

Here are some great ways for everyone to slowly transition back to school while still being in the "summer" mindset!

1. Set an adjusted bed time: Simulating a "school night" bed time prior to the start of school, will help your family begin to feel as if back to school is almost here. This is a tool to ease your kids in transitioning to an ideal bed time!

2. Schedule a time for homework: Many kids have to read books or complete projects during summer break. Right now would be a great time to make sure these assignments are completed and will be turned in on time. Sit with your kids, ask them to schedule a couple of hours a day for school work during their last summer weeks. If no homework needs to be completed, assign them homework assignments (you can find simulated school worksheets online). 

3. Plan back to school snacks: This can help ease children back to their school routine and increase their excitement for the new school year. Talk about healthy and tasty snacks that they may enjoy eating their first week back at school. This will give them something to look forward to! 

4. Go back to school shopping: For many children this is the best part of back to school. The new sneakers, shirts, notebooks and markers. Plan a budget together and go shopping together! Encourage your child to pick out an agenda book and notebooks, that they can use to start the year in an organized fashion. 

5. Explore the school: This is a must if your child will be attending a new school! It will help calm their nerves on the first day of class. Go tour the school together and find where their class is, the nearest bathrooms, office and lunch room. 

6. Talk about making and keeping friends: Discussing with your child how to meet new friends and maintain old friends is a social skill that they can always have handy. Practice meeting new kids through role-plays, to help calm their anxiety. Some children are more excited about meeting new friends and will use this as motivation for wanting to go back to school. 

Make these last weeks a back to school practice, by reminding your child of all the positive activities that await this new school year!

10 Tips for Parenting Kids with ADHD

1. Organize yourself: Place backpacks, clothing and toys in the same place everyday 

2. Avoid becoming distracted: Do not turn on the TV, MP3 or computer while completing another task 

3. Limit your choices: Offer children a choice between no more than two items (food, clothing, toy...) 

4. Communicate tasks as simple as possible: Use clear, brief and concise directions 

5. Have a reward system: Use charts and list realistic attainable goals and track positive behavior

6. Discipline effectively: Do not use spanking or yelling, instead have limited timeouts and remove privileges as a consequence 

7. Have a routine: Follow the most similar structure daily 

8. Use positive language: Tell your child what you want them to do, not what you want them to not do 

9.  Do not blame: Blaming children will negatively impact their self esteem 

10. Be hands on: Have fun, play outside and save some time during the day for just your child (no distractions) 

Behind the Trigger

Mass shootings are becoming all too popular and the controversy is spreading about gun access and mental health. As a mental health counselor I do not believe either guns or mental illness are solely to blame. We should be focused on access to mental health and preventative services.

Many outpatient therapy clients are not experiencing a mental health crisis and are not likely to go on a mass shooting spree. However, metal health access to all is crucial for preventative treatment and catching early signs of a mental health crisis. As psychologists we are trained to ask questions, make observations and to help prevent potential tragedies. What can we help prevent if our potential clients do not have access to our services?

The problem arises with access to mental health therapy and insurance companies who monopolize the price of health insurance. Thus making effective practitioners scarce and making treatment ineffective for some clients. These clients who have limited or no access of practitioners are most in danger of experiencing a crisis and not having any help through their downfall.  

As a nation we have to come together and realize that the problem with guns and violence is much more than just the person pulling the trigger. The responsibility begins with access to preventative mental health care. The solution is not simple but we have to find a way to unite and promote affordable mental health care for everyone.

Does spanking work?

Spanking a child teaches them fear and increases violence, it does not increase obedience. The fear instilled in children after spanking does not mean your child will respect you or listen to you anymore than before. In fact fear creates insecurities, has a negative impact on child development and children begin to question their self worth. This eventually can lead to low self esteem and possible depression, not just in childhood years but later on during adolescence. 

I am a strong believer in using behavioral methods and praise to increase a child's positive behavior. The best way to teach children to listen and be respectful is by reinforcing positive behaviors, praising good behavior and giving attention to your child for the behavior you want to see. By giving your child love and attention, they will want to please you and they will reciprocate the positive emotions. This teaches self control, positive social skills and emotional regulation. 

Parents who believe in spanking are choosing this method for a variety of reasons including: it was done to them, they believe it is a form of teaching, they are not aware of the negative effects on child development due to spanking and they simply feel behavioral techniques do not work for their child. All of the above reasons are excuses, educate yourself and realize that spanking only teaches children to hit and be violent. The last thing we should want for our children is for them to grow up thinking that hitting and hurting equals respect or love.