Cut it out

Is this just a phase?  Will she grow out of it?  Parents often ask these questions when we are in the therapy session, as they gaze upon their teen’s multiple scars that resemble a game of cat’s cradle on their forearms.  Ultimately, parents want to know why their teen cuts and how to make it stop-they want their child to cut it out.  In spite of the myth that adolescents cut on themselves because they want to manipulate Mom and Dad into getting their way, cutting is actually a cry for help. 

Here are a few facts that you should know about cutting:

Self-harm can begin as early as 11 years old. 

Some adolescents learn self-injurious behaviors from their peers.

Most teens are not trying to commit suicide by cutting on themselves.

It is a negative way of coping with one’s emotions.

It is important to talk with your teen and let him know that you are there for support.

Seek out professional help from a licensed Therapist who can help your adolescent sort out her feelings and teach new coping skills.

Schedule an appointment with your teen’s PCP (primary care physician) to rule out any other contributing chemical causes, such as major depression, etc.

Adolescents cut on themselves in secret. 

Overall, one in twelve teenagers cut on themselves.  Sadly, ninety percent of them began when they were pre-adolescents.  You can’t just tell them to Cut it out, because they will only cut deeper…

Reference list:

livescience.com (September 2010) Why Do Teens Hurt Themselves?  The Science of Self-Injury.  Retrieved November 9, 2015, from(http://www.livescience.com/11043-teens-hurt-science-injury.html)

helpguide.org  (September 2015) Cutting and Self-Harm.  Retrieved November 9, 2015, from(http://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/cutting-and-self-harm.htm)





Beat the bully

 Beat the bully..these words can mean two different things and parents actually teach their children one of two ways to beat the bully.  In fact, 20 percent of Kindergartners are bullies.  As a result, there are those that teach the importance of self-defense and encourage standing up for oneself.  Then there are those parents who teach their children a different courageous approach-walking away and disengaging in the power struggle to dominate the playground or school hallways. 

Regardless of which approach is taught, it still remains a struggle to watch your child endure the menacing words and tyrannical ways of a bully.  I must admit that I, myself, have encouraged my child to use her words to defend herself.  Yet if the other student continued to push her, I subtly permitted her to beat the bully-defend herself by pushing back and getting ready for whatever was coming next. 

At some point, we can no longer teach our children to beat the bully by using physical defensive tactics.  There are those bullies who simply use harsh words to diminish the self-esteem of our children.  We cannot encourage violence just because our children don’t like what is being said of them or to them.  Whereas bullying remains a widespread epidemic, there are some practical ways in which we can teach our children to handle bullying without actually beating the bully:

(1)   Encourage the use of “I feel” statements so that your child will learn to express his emotions.

(2)   Stand up for herself.  It’s ok for your child to call bullying what it is and then proceed to keep her lunch money and protect her belongings.

(3)   Set aside time to ask your child how his day was at school so that you can be aware of any physical or verbal abuse that may be going on.

(4)   Build up your child’s self-esteem through positive praise and acknowledgment of her accomplishments.

(5)   Advocate for your child if she is being harassed at school and cannot speak up for herself.


Reference list:

Education.com (March 2012) 6 ways to protect kindergartners and preschoolers from bullying.  Retrieved December 23, 2014, from http://www.education.com/reference/article/preschool-kindergarten-bullies/



Teen depression and suicide

“When I was your age, we didn’t have to worry about the things you parents have to worry about these days..”  How many of us have heard our elders echo this newfound revelation-in fact, it’s most likely the exact same “words of wisdom” that our parents heard from their parents.  It’s like a family heirloom that gets passed on to each consecutive generation.  Perhaps that is because with each generation, the challenges become greater and the journey to success takes longer. 

There are so many obstacles that teenagers are faced with-Raging hormones, break-ups, peer pressure, cyber bullying, addiction…these factors can have a negative impact on a teenager’s life.  If not dealt with directly, it can lead to depression and maybe even suicide.  As parents, we are all too familiar with the unrequited love, endless attempts to fit in with the popular crowd and experimenting with, or even resisting the pressure to use drugs and alcohol.  Whereas cyber bullying, chat rooms and texting did not exist, the constant struggle to “find ourselves” remains timeless for the adolescents of each generation.  Oftentimes, teenagers feel alone, unequipped and uncertain of how to handle the issues that they are faced with.  So how can we recognize signs of depression and suicidal ideation?  The following is a list of signs and symptoms to look for in a child who may be struggling with depression:

Irritability-the adolescent is often upset or moody for no apparent reason.

Loss of interest-he no longer participates in afterschool activities, sports, etc.

Fatigue-she is always tired, struggles to stay alert and wants to sleep.

Feelings of guilt or worthlessness-she feels guilty about having thoughts of self-harm or asking others for help.

Here is a list of signs that your child may be contemplating suicide:

Giving away possessions.

School grades plummeting.

Lack of social interaction/friendships.

Preoccupation with death in writing, converstaion, music.

Reckless behaviors: substance abuse, sexual promiscuity.

If your teenager or someone else’s adolescent, is showing signs or symptoms of depression or you suspect suicidal ideation, there are some things you can do to help:

Talk to your child about what it is that may be bothering him.

Contact your child’s general physician to rule out any other causes for her behaviors.

Seek further treatment from a Therapist who can help your child deal with his symptoms of depression in a positive manner and help your family cope. 

You can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

 Reference list:

WebMD. (April 2011). Warning signs of suicide in children and teensRetrieved November 4, 2013, from http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/warning-signs-of-suicide-in-children-and-teens-topic-overview.

HelpGuide.org. (August 2013). Teen depression: A guide for parents.  Retrived November 4, 2013, from http://www.helpguide.org/mental/depression_teen.htm.


Truth be told: what to do when your kid keeps lying

As parents, we try our best to teach our kids right from wrong.  We want them to grow up to be honest, independent and compassionate towards others.  Whereas our kids become more independent thinkers every day and are learning how to help each other out, they can also have a tendency to be dishonest.  This can be disheartening for every parent involved.  I don’t condone lying but I must admit that lying is quite typical among most children.  In fact, nearly 90 percent of children lie by the time they turn four years old.  However, by age twelve, children usually abandon their dishonesty.  So why do they lie and how do we help them in the meantime?

Children lie for the following reasons:

They want to avoid getting into trouble.  They don’t want to be accountable for their misdeeds; therefore, having to suffer the consequences of their actions.

Not only are their bodies growing, their imaginations and creativity are as well.  As a result, children grow easily bored with the truth and like to make up stories to keep themselves and those around them, entertained.

Just like most adults, children want to fit in and feel like they belong.  In order to feel like a member of the group, children may lie about the things that they own or places they have been.

Now that we know the inevitable, some children lie, how do we help them?

Whereas we can’t fix it, we can address their behavior by doing the following:

Communicate with your child and keep the lines of communication open.  Help him/her to feel safe to come to you with the truth, when he/she is ready.

Be careful not to get into an argument with your child.  If your child continues to lie regarding the topic, take some time to cool down and revisit the situation at a latter time.  

As tempting as it may be, try not to continuously ask questions regarding the same topic. 

Remind your child of the rules regarding lying and the consequences for being dishonest.

When your child finally does tell the truth, express your appreciation for their honesty and remind them of the importance of telling the truth.  Overall, truth be told: lying doesn’t last forever, our children do eventually grow out of it-I promise…

Reference list:


New York Daily news. (May 2010). Your kid’s a liar?  Great!  Retrieved October 29, 2012, from http://articles.nydailynews.com/2010-05-17/entertainment/27064647_1_older-kids-parents-child-study


Top 3 Strategies to use with Defiant Kids

Sometimes, ok, oftentimes, our children do not behave the way we want them to.  They jump on the furniture, throw balls in the house, touch all of the items on the shelf at the grocery store, and are constantly on detention at school for their misconduct.  Our children might even throw tantrums or resort to hitting when they don't get their way.  It can be difficult to distinguish typical misbehavior and the assertion of one's own independence from Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).  Here are some strategies to use with children who have ODD:

(1)  Encourage your child to use "I" statements.  With younger children, practice using "I" statements and role play with the use of puppets.  Puppets help children to feel less threatened and more willing to take ownership and to tell the truth in difficult circumstances.

 (2)  Try not to engage in arguments with your child.  Oftentimes, parents will continue to question their child when they catch them in a lie.  This can lead to an argument between parent and child.

(3)  Introduce positive coping skills of deep breathing, taking a walk, closing your eyes and counting to ten,etc, for your child to use when he/she is feeling frustrated and is about to lose his/her temper.

Most of all, it is important to keep the lines of communication open, and let your child know that you are there to listen, support and guide him/her into making positive choices.