Tag Archive for: family

Winter holidays involve light to provide comfort and hope

Light and Hope

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been struck by the number of holidays that take place during what in the Northern Hemisphere is the darkest time of the year and all the things they have in common. To me, it starts with Diwali, which is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs around the world. For five days, Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, celebrates the triumph of light over darkness. Many people are familiar with the Jewish tradition of Hanukkah, which is also known as the Festival of Lights. Some Christians celebrate Advent, in which candles are lit, adding one each consecutive Sunday for the four Sundays before Christmas. During the Winter Solstice, some folks light paper lanterns, which they release in community festivals. Kwanzaa involves lighting candles and families and communities coming together.

Are you seeing a pattern here?

Winter can be really challenging for many people. With the cold and darkness, we’re more biologically vulnerable to experiencing intense emotions. Add to that the expectations of how things “should” be, challenging relationship dynamics, financial concerns, and (as always) the capitalist expectation that despite all our obligations, we still need to be ‘productive,’ and you’ve got a terrible storm to weather!

Weathering it Together, or Light and Hope

All these traditions are about light. It’s funny how many figures of speech there are about light: in light of something, to bring something to light, the light of someone’s life, shed light on something, light a fire under someone, et cetera. Light is so important during these dark times, but more importantly, community is important. We know that people succeed when they are given appropriate support, whether it’s in recovery from substance misuse, independent living with an intellectual disability, or overall mental health.

Along with light and community, there is hope. Hope that the darkness will not overcome us. Hope that tomorrow will be just a little bit brighter. When I was in my training program, one of my mentors called therapists ‘keepers and cultivators of hope.’ I love that as not just a job description but as a life philosophy. At True North, we aim to cultivate hope with our clients. Sometimes that means holding hope for them when they become too overwhelmed to hold it themselves. I’d like to end these thoughts with my favorite Emily Dickinson poem:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers—

That perches in the soul—

And sings the tune without the words—

And never stops—at all—

 

And the sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—

And sore must be the storm—

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm—

 

I’ve heard it in the chilliest land—

And on the strangest Sea—

Yet—never—in Extremity,

It asked a crumb—of me.

 

This blog was written by True North’s Clinical Director, Jennifer Kendrick. Jennifer is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Indiana and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Kentucky. Learn more or get in touch here.

If You have a Teenager You Better Know about Vaping

Alarming Trends:

-Currently 1 in 4 Middle School and High School students have used a vape pen or e-cigarette, 1 in 6 over the past 30 days.

-There is evidence to suggest that e-cigarette use increases the risk of using combustible cigarettes.

-Nearly 6 in 10 cigarette users also us e-cigarettes. This is a two-way relationship.

-A recent study found that teens who use e-cigarettes are 4 times more likely to begin smoking tobacco cigarettes within 18 months when compared to teens that do not vape.

-E-Cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among teenagers.

What are Vape Pens or E-Cigarettes?

They are electronic nicotine delivery devices, plain and simple. They come in many flavors and are called by various names: e-cigs, vape pens, e-hookahs, vapes, and mods just to name a few. Make no mistake, if your teen is using a vape pen, it is delivering nicotine.

Why are E-Cigarettes so Popular with Teens?

Three reasons:

1. Curiosity.

2. Flavors. 8 of 10 teen users use flavored e-cigarettes. In a recent study, the primary reason that teens use is because “they come in flavors that I like.

3. Teens believe that e-cigarettes are safer. 1 in 5 teens believe that e-cigarettes cause no harm.

Are E-Cigarettes Harmful to Teens?

Simply put, YES!

-Nicotine disrupts the development of brain circuits that control attention and learning.

-Nicotine use by teens can puts them at risk for mood disorders and permanently lowering their impulse control.

-The nicotine in e-cigarettes affects development of the brain’s reward system, making them more susceptible to addiction to other drugs.

-Although e-cigarettes are safer than combustible cigarettes, there are still many questions being asked about the health risks of e-cigarette aerosol. There is no question, however, that nicotine exposure poses a major health risk for teens.

What Can You Do?

First, do not be hoodwinked. If your teen is using e-cigarettes, they are using nicotine.

Second, treat them as combustible cigarettes and let them know that you know!

Third, prohibit the use of e-cigarettes by your teens. I understand that this is not going to be easy, but you have to start by setting limits. You can randomly use a urine test to hold them accountable.

Fourth, educate them about e-cigarettes.

Fifth, if you have tried everything, enroll them in our Stop Vaping-Education Group at True North Counseling. This group is called: Salvage and is somewhat of an acronym for Stop Vaping Group Education. Salvage means: to preserve something from potential loss or adverse circumstances. We want to preserve the health and welfare of your teens. Call 502-777-7525 for more information.

What’s Wrong with My Teenager?

I’ve been listening to a series of lectures on Audible entitled, “Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior,” by Mark Leary, Ph.D. He’s a professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University. I’m going to be sharing several of his topics over the next few months. The one that caught my eye was, “Why Don’t Adolescents Behave like Adults?” Here are some of his thoughts:

First, there tends to be more family conflict when kids transition into adolescence.

The good news is that this conflict generally is short-lived (lasting the first couple of years of adolescence) and generally focused on minor issues such as their personal appearance, dating, family rules, and curfews. The reason for these conflicts seem to be rooted in the teen’s desire to establish their independence, which is a healthy and important part of their development.

Second, Teens tend to display more rapid and extreme mood swings when they enter into adolescence.

Certainly, hormones play a role in these emotional swings, but researchers are looking at the role that stress plays in mood instability. Leary points out that, “Adolescence involves major personal and social changes and transitions that would be stressful at any age, but for a young person without much life experience, these changes can be overwhelming.” Increased stress equals increased mood instability.

Third, teenagers tend to display an increase in risky behaviors which, as Leary points out, “have the potential to harm them or others.”

I see a lot of these teens, and here’s what’s happening in their brains. This increase in risky behavior is due to the interplay between two distinct networks in the brain. The first network is the socioemotional network. This network process rewards, especially social rewards. As a child enters adolescence, the reward center of the brain changes and teenagers begin to pay more attention to potentially rewarding experiences. The cognitive control network controls what is typically called executive functioning and involves functions such as planning and impulse control. Unfortunately, this network develops gradually throughout adolescence and matures by the mid-twenties. One system is telling the teen to speed up and the other is telling them to slow down. Unfortunately, the cognitive control network can be outmatched by the socioemotional network. It’s like putting a new driver behind the wheel of a race car.

So, to address the question, “What’s wrong with my teenager,” the answer is nothing.

Teens are becoming something. They are becoming adults and stretching the wings that one day they will be using independently. They are testing boundaries that one day will not be there and they are exploring and taking risks that one day will be wonderful growth experiences. But until they become adults, they need our guidance, support, teachable moments, patience, and they need a gradually increased amount of freedom to become the people that you have raised them to become.

I often hear extended family members counsel younger parents. The younger parents are overwhelmed and exhausted with the the task of raising children. Aunt Susan will respond with, “If you think it’s bad now, wait until they’re teenagers.” I couldn’t disagree more! Yes, it’s painful at times watching them transition into an adult, but it’s also one of the most reward times that you will have with them. Understanding what’s going on is the key to looking forward to it and even enjoying it!!!!

Friday Waypoints- 1/25/19

What Your Children Remember

I’m spending time with my son this week. He lives in Colorado and is one of the kindest, most genuine person I know. And he is a hard worker. When he was living in Louisville, employers loved him. It’s no different now. He’s working lots of extra hours to support his wife and two daughters while she works on her college degree. I’m very proud of him!

We were talking about doing a family trip to the Grand Canyon next year. During our conversation, he reminded me that we took him to the Canyon when he graduated from High School. He backpacked down and out of the Canyon with us and he disclosed that it was one of the most memorable things he has ever done. I did not know that. I just remember his calf muscles cramping on the way out! I’m glad that this memory is still vividly with him! It’s that “repertoire of positive sentiment” that Gottman talks about. It’s like banking memories. Kids remember things!

What I’m Listening To

I started listening to “Lonesome Dove” by Larry McMurtry. It won the Pulitzer in 1986. This is my 6th or 7th time listening to it. People have often asked me, “What’s it about?” I simply reply, everything. It deals with life, death, love, cattle, horses, Gus McCrea, Woodrow Call, men, women, fate, and a host of other things. I always give this book for Christmas and to my graduate students when they complete their course work. Take a peek at it!

What I Hiked This Week

There is this amazing place to hike in Manitou Springs, Colorado, just outside Colorado Springs. It’s called The Incline. I do it every 3 months. It’s a 1-mile climb up the side of a mountain with a 3.5-mile descent down the Barr Trail. The kicker is, you gain 2,000 feet of elevation on the ascent. It usually takes me an hour and 15 minutes to complete this mile ascent. It has 2,800 steps! During the summer months, the stream of people is steady from the base to the summit (about 2,000 people a day). I use this hike to keep track of my level of fitness. It does not fail me.  

Friday Waypoints- 1/18/19

Family Connections

Sometimes you have to stop the work you’re doing, put down the book you’re reading, turn off the TV and connect with your family. I’m leaving for a visit with my two granddaughters tomorrow. They live out of state and I make it a point to visit with them 4 or 5 times a year. Grandpa brings them things. So, this week I went to the Carmichael’s Children’s Book store on Bardstown Road in the Highlands for some “Grandpa-what-did-you-bring-us?” presents. If you haven’t been there, I encourage you to visit.

I also collected some geodes from the Kentucky landscape to crack open with my little Sweeties. I can’t wait to watch them as they discover what’s in them.

And for my oldest granddaughter, I’m taking her a copy of Peterson’s Field Guide to Western Birds and I’m giving her an old pair of my binoculars, and then I’m taking her birding. This is how I connect with them. Later this summer, we’re going on Sophie’s “maiden” backpacking trip in the Colorado Rockies. I can’t wait! This week they were in my thoughts and deeds.

What am I Reading

I’m slowly digesting a recent study by the American Psychological Association entitled, “APA Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Men and Boys.” My practice is primarily with adolescent boys and most of them are struggling. “Throughout their lifespan, males experience many developmental changes and challenges pertaining to intimacy, sex and emotions, beginning with the universal task of forming intimate attachment with others.” The problem, as the study continues, is that “some boys are socialized from an early age to avoid intimacy and deep connections with others.” I think that our job as parents and clinicians is to help boys and men make connections with peers and adults. I’ll share more in weeks to come.

What I’m Eating

I’m always looking for a healthy snack or for something to throw into my daypack when I’m doing my Saturday hikes into the Jefferson Forest. I picked up some LIVfit Superfood Blend and on the back was a recipe for Superfood Power Up Bars. They are relatively simple to make and full of good stuff. I’ve included the directions and the nutritional facts for the LIVfit Superfood. I’m going to say that the taste is easily a 9 out of 10, and maybe higher. I used raw honey instead of agave. Give them a try.

   

Family & Life Hacks for the Holidays

The Holidays are coming and most people have a love/hate relationship with them. We love the food, the lights, and the sentimental feelings that come with them, but hate the stress, the drama, and the sentimental feelings that come with them. Whats more, few things can be more painful than celebrating the holidays without a lost loved one or after a tragedy.

I’ve compiled some suggestions for getting through the upcoming Holiday season. As they say in the many treatment groups, “Take what you like and leave the rest.” I hope they can make these next 6-8 weeks more meaningful and restful.

1. Lower your Expectations

Whatever your thinking about HOW the Holidays should unfold, cleanse your mind of those thoughts.

2. Traditions are Evil

There I said it. More families have more fights over TRADITIONS than anything else. Nothing is worth losing your peace and quiet!

3. Get off the Family and Office Gift Exchange

It’s a waste of money. I have sadly listened to many families that waste lots of money buying gifts for extended families members. I have 8 siblings and 50 plus nieces and nephews. We decided 40 years ago to NOT do the exchange. Best family decision we’ve ever made. I have always opted out to the office “white elephant” exchanges. I have never regretted that decision.

4. Decorate your House For You, Not for Anybody Else

Put your tree up when you want it up. Take it down when you want it down. Keeping up with the neighbors is a trap. Don’t do it.

5. Do not “Charge” the Holidays

If you limit your gift buying to cash, you’ll come out the other end much happier.

6. There is No One Reason for The Season

There are “Reasons” for the season. You get to decide. There are religious reasons. There are family reasons. There are cultural, and personal, and altruistic reasons. It can be whatever you want. I find meaning in the New Year’s Day Holiday. It gives me a chance to reflect on the past year and dream about the new.

7. Make Amends

Do not let another Holiday Season pass, being at odds with a family member or friends. Those hurting relationships will rob you of your joy during this season.

Slow down. Take a Deep Breath. Relax. Do Nothing. Forget the concerts. Forget the scenic drives. Forget the Holiday Party. Forget the Mall. Forget the congested traffic. Forget the holiday movies. Try to do as little as possible this Holiday season. Stay at home and simply enjoy the quiet evenings with your family and loved ones.

Don’t be afraid if you and your kids get a little bored. Boredom can be a motivating force for creativity. Do not feel pressure to entertain your kids every second during the Holiday-School break. Worse-case scenario: They’ll look forward to getting back to school.

Get Outside. Walk, hike, stroll, sit on a park bench, lay under the stars, visit the many parks in Louisville, have a winter picnic. Seriously, get off your butt this Holiday Season! You’re most likely going to eat more. That’s okay! Enjoy the food. Enjoy the Thanksgiving and Holiday meals.

Then get out and walk. Go into the forests. Do a special walk on Thanksgiving morning or New Year’s Day.

Mark's Friday Waypoints

Friday Waypoints – 9/28/18

WELCOME TO MY WAYPOINTS!

As I explained in a previous blog, Waypoints are significant events or moments from my past week that help me stay oriented as to where I am and where I’m going.

The Last Week of Summer

It’s good to reflect on the passing of the seasons. Last week was the last week of Summer and we experienced the Autumnal Equinox the previous Friday. When I ask people about Fall, they generally either love it or hate it. No in-between. I’m one of those that love it. But I want to encourage you to take a few moments and reflect on this Summer. Savor it for a few moments. Stop reading and think about the important dates, holidays, events, places, people, or moments that you remember. For me, it is the Jefferson Forest where I hike every Saturday. It is my birthday and it is my granddaughters that I get to visit every three months and I saw in July. It was the images of Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn that I spied one evening with people that I care about. I don’t want to lose these memories. Thoreau wrote, “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”
I’m certain he meant, “Don’t allow your life (the seasons) to pass you by without a little reflection.”

Book I read this Week

I was excited to read Sarah Ivens’ new book, “Forest Therapy.” Those of you that know me know that I love being outdoors and I love the forest. I’ll be backpacking next weekend in the Red River Gorge. I wrote a full review on her book that you can read here. Her book reminded me of an interview on Tim Ferris’ podcast of Art De Vany. Art is an economist and a really smart guy. He’s in his 80’s. Perfect health. Tim asked him what advice he would give to people that are suffering from depression. He responded, “Spend time in the woods.” I think that Sarah Ivens would agree.

Music I’m listening to

I discovered Inya’s new album. “Dark Sky Island” really isn’t new. It came out in 2015, but I just missed it until now. It had been 8 years since her last album. She is Ireland’s bestselling solo artist. She’s sold 75 million albums worldwide. The song that I love is, “So I could find My Way.” I hope you enjoy it.

For more Friday Waypoints from True North Counseling, follow this link. Mark Neese, LCSW, BCBA is the Principal Therapist at True North Counseling in Louisville, KY and will be posting Friday Waypoints once a week.