The Importance of Mothers (and Other Parental Figures)

This weekend we celebrated all the hard-working, dedicated, and loving mothers and mother figures for Mother’s Day. This week’s blog post is dedicated to all the wonderful mothers (and parental figures) out there!

Harry Harlow, a psychologist in the 1960’s understood the importance of parental figures to the social-emotional development of humans. Prior to his study with monkeys, many people believed babies and children depended on their mother’s due to their need for a food source and survival.

Harlow thought different, he felt the comfort provided by caretakers was also a factor to development, and he was right!

Harlow studied the effect of monkeys on two different types of “mother figures”. One “mother figure” made of wire only had the monkey food, the other had no monkey food but was covered in a comforting terry cloth. Harlow was fascinated when he noticed the monkeys would spend the majority of time with the terry cloth mother, running only to the wire mother just long enough to fill up on milk. Harlow founded the importance of love, compassion, and validation to our development thanks to this intriguing psychological study.

For humans, the same is true. It has been proven time and time again that children with secure attachments to their parental figures have the best chances at healthy physical, emotional, intellectual, and social development. Love, encouragement, and compassion given by parental figures is vital to effective growth and sends the message that our children can trust in us to meet their needs.

A recent study even linked parent-child communication to children’s successes. The study founded that quality conversations were a key factor in successful development. These imperative interactions foster connectedness to our families. Warm and positive communication with purpose help children more accurately understand family values, morals, appropriate communication skills, and increases confidence and self-esteem.

If you’re having trouble finding time to have conversations with your child, take the car ride to and from school or doctor’s appointments as an opportunity. Ask your child or teen open ended questions to get them talking about their feelings and day. Instead of “What did you do at school today?” Try something like “What was your favorite part of your day?” This question warrants a little more pondering and also cannot be answered with the overused “It was good, Mom!”. Not only will it help foster your child’s development, but it will increase the quality of your parent-child relationship and encourage healthy relationships in your child’s future.

Whether you are a mother, father, or parental figure you are appreciated! No one works longer, more strenuous hours, or a more important job than parents!

If you or someone you know is struggling with parent-child communication, self-care and work/life balance, or other mental health issues and would like to set up an appointment for psychotherapy please contact Michelle Smith, RMHCI, MS at 405-323-1786 for a FREE 15 phone consultation!

Mental Health Awareness Month

May marks mental health awareness month, a time to reflect and honor the 43.8 million people with mental illnesses around the globe. Many of these unsung heroes are living among us without our awareness. Family, friends, coworkers, and people you know are wearing invisible scars many silently suffering in their day to day lives.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just over 20 percent, or about 1 in 5 children, have had a seriously debilitating mental disorder. With a large number of the population diagnosed with mental health disorders, there is still many barriers to effective care such as the stigma & shame associated with receiving mental health services.

Equality Between Physical and Mental Wellness

If you found out someone you love had been diagnosed with a physical illness such as diabetes, there would be no hesitation to encourage that person to receive the utmost care necessary to return to normal functioning. Unfortunately, many people do not feel the same way about mental illness. Often clients are told by loved ones to “just handle it” or “stop thinking about it”. It’s important for people to know mental illness cannot just “be handled” by the client on their own accords. Just like a patient with diabetes utilizes a number of doctors and specialists, people with mental illnesses are recommended to utilize mental health professionals, psychiatrists, and therapists to manage symptoms and return to a normal level of functioning. Changing the perspective can help bring empathy, and also encouraged clients to get the help they need and deserve.

When Do I Know I Need Help?

Another side effect of the stigma of mental health is that many clients wait too long to be seen by professionals. As a general rule, if you notice your mood, affect, and behaviors change to a point where functioning in any area your life is compromised (such as at work, relationships, social activities) and the symptoms have persisted consistently for a duration of two weeks it is time to see a professional to explore further. Some clients suffer with severe symptoms for years in silence due to the shame associated with their mental health. If your concerned about a change in your mental health, contact a professional for a screening, you won’t regret taking the time to care for yourself. After all, there is no health without mental health.

Resilience

I am consistently amazed at the resilience, determination, and stamina of my clients. I chose this field because as a young professional I was eager to help people who needed it. In reality, my clients have taught me lessons in resilience. I have personally witnessed the willpower and determination of my clients to work towards creating a thriving and successful life. They motivate me to be the best clinician I possibly can, each and every day.

Just like symptoms of a chronic illness are managed over time, mental illness is a process of recovery. Clients wok to manage symptoms and have good and bad days during the process.

If you or someone you love is suffering in silence with mental illness I would love to chat with you to discuss supporting you on your journey towards recovery. Contact Michelle Smith RMHCI, MS at 405-323-1786 for a free phone consultation

Benefits of Therapy for Children During the Summer

The countdown is on! Days are getting longer, sun is getting warmer, and the last school bell is right around the corner (35 days away if your counting!).

For many children, summertime is a break with less responsibilities, more freedom, and less stress. Due to increased time for free play, promoting independence, and strengthening interpersonal relationships it may be a great time to start thinking about taking some of the availability in schedule to address certain symptoms you may have noticed your child demonstrating during the school year.

Before the School Year Ends

Take time to schedule parent-teacher conferences, follow up with guidance counselors, 504 contacts, and coaches to get a clear picture on how your child has adjusted throughout the school year. It is unlikely children will “grow” out of certain mood, impulse, behavior, or social struggles in a matter of months without support. In my clinical experience, abatement of school year stressors are likely to return, in more severe forms during the next school year if not addressed.

Availability to Focus on Home Based Challenges

If your child or teen struggles with behavior problems at home and in school, summer can be a great opportunity to hone in on improving skills in the home environment. Therapists can work with your child and family on identifying mood disturbances, increasing problem solving skills, planning and organization, and increasing positive communication in the family system. During the school year hustle and grind, it can be easy to allow these important goals fall to the wayside. Summer is a great time to tune up our emotional growth inside the family system (where change is most likely to stick!)

Structure

Change in routine can be wonderful, but also can cause uncertainty in the lives of school aged children and teens who are hardwired to schedules. Adding weekly therapy appointments provides routine and structure to the laid back feel of the summertime. Keeping children on consistent schedules has been proven to increase sense of security, positive self-image, and control in numerous environments.

Increase Your Family Tool Bank

Therapy provides an opportunity to learn and develop healthy coping strategies in a safe environment, but the benefits extend past changes in your teen or child. By engaging in this collaborative effort you are letting your child know the family is working to improve together, and it is a priority to the family to be the best you can! Benefits such as improved communication, reflection of feelings, and increased emotional connection are only some of the wonderful outcomes of investing in you and your child’s mental and emotional health this summer!

For more information on booking an appointment or consultation for your child, teen, or family contact Michelle Smith MS, RMHCI

405-323-1786

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety. We all know the feeling. An all-encompassing emotional response to a real or perceived threat. Right now with FSA testing happening in school districts across the state, anxiety levels are sky-rocketed for students, parents, and teachers alike. During times of increased stress you may notice changes in your child’s behavior such as irritability, rigidity, outbursts, and attempting to gain control of the world around them. Although anxiety is a normal emotional response, it can become detrimental especially if ruminating thoughts regarding what “might” happen take over.

During high emotional times such as state testing, you may notice your own anxiety increasing more than normal. Anxiety, like many emotions, is contagious and just being in a setting with high anxiety can increase another’s feelings of anxiety. So how can parents “weather the storm” of testing anxiety season and support and also encourage our students to be the best they can be?

Encourage and Validate

Parents, teachers, and adults sometimes struggle to validate children who are dealing with anxiety because it may not make any rational sense. For instance, maybe you have an honor role student who consistently performs well on standardized tests; however, they are feeling an overwhelming sense of dread the morning of the test. You may feel challenged to validate your child without agreeing or dismissing their feelings. Validate and encourage your child or teen’s feelings anyways, note how difficult it must be to feel so out of control at times. Use statements like these below:

“It makes sense that you are nervous about your test, and I know you will do your best and make it through anyways!”

“I can tell you are worried about the test coming up, especially because you have been picking your nails more lately. Is there anything we can do to help you feel better about it?”

When validating remember anxiety feels REAL whether it is a perceived or imaginable threat. Try to take a trip down memory lane to your middle school or high school years and connect to your experience with anxiety. Allow your child to vent if necessary, and reward them for taking steps towards their future.

Model Healthy Coping Strategies

The history of anxiety comes from our caveman ancestors who were driven by fear to escape life threatening situations such as being chased by a bear. In 2018, anxiety comes from worry thoughts that trigger the same “fight or flight response”. The problem comes when there is nothing to run away from, then you or your child can be left with symptoms such as rapid breathing, increased heartbeat, sweating, or trembling. You can help encourage your teen to begin utilizing healthy coping strategies in times without high emotion, so it is easier for them to practice the skills during anxiety.

Breathing Exercises

Teaching simple 4 count breathing in through the nose, and out through the nose is a wonderful tool to teach children at a young age. When our mind is on overdrive, we can calm the body which sends a message to calm the mind. Deep breathing helps bring our body to a relaxed state and out of the “fight or flight” response. Bring your teen or child to a free community yoga or meditation class, make a date of it to tune in and focus on your breathe.

Get Into Logical Mind

Many times when anxiety becomes paralyzing, we can make a shift in mood by engaging our logical mind, or the part of the mind that focuses on logic versus emotion. To engage this part of the brain help your child focus on a number game, count backwards, or engage in a writing exercise. This takes attention off the emotion and brings the body back to an equilibrium state. Sudoku, meditative coloring, even math problems can help in times of intense emotion. Engage with your child and model these behaviors for most effective practices.

Acceptance

Although your child or teens emotions may be more intense in the next couple weeks than normal, it’s important to remember anxiety is a part of life that your child can and will learn to manage to live a fulfilled life.

It may be easier to minimize or dismiss your child’s anxiety, taking the time to acknowledge it may be the difference between learning how to cope and manage these feelings or burning out. And remember… testing season will pass!

 

For more information on anxiety, mental health services for your child or teen, or psychoeducation for families contact Michelle Smith, MS, RMHCI and Middle School Guidance Counselor at 405-323-1786 for a consultation.

Why Knowing Your Child’s School Counselor Is So Important

Let’s face it. School brings out another side of our children that maybe parents do not get to see at home. Our children spend the majority of the hours in the day at school. Children spend more time at school than they do spending time with family, participating in extracurricular activities, and even sleeping! As a middle school counselor, I have had the privilege of serving over 500 middle school students this past school year, and I would encourage each and every parent to establish a close relationship with your child’s school counselor. Here’s why:

Not All Counselors are Created Equal

School counselors wear many hats in school. Likely they are the ones encouraging your child’s academic success, helping students apply for high school and college, and providing social-emotional support as well as juggling other administrative tasks. My personal background is mental health focused. My goal this year was to increase student’s understanding of self, and increase their coping skills to navigate life challenges academically, socially, and emotionally. At my school, both guidance counselors have a mental health lens and provide support to the entire school from this perspective. I believe this is vital for many students and families.

It may surprise you that many school counselors have no or little understanding of counseling whatsoever. Some school counselors hold teaching certifications and were “promoted” to this role through effective work in the classroom. Unfortunately effective classroom management does not mean this individual is ready to handle the reality of the real life issues that come about in the guidance offices such as suicidal ideations, family conflict, low-self-esteem, broken families, poverty and more. I have seen many school counselors push these extremely important issues to the side, just because they were not trained on how to effectively provide support to a student or family.

School Counselors Are Busy

Establishing a good rapport with your child’s counselor opens the door for future communication regarding your child’s academic success, behavior, and changes that are noticed in the school. Working in a smaller charter school, I have been blessed with the opportunity to get to know my students on a very personal level. In larger schools, counselors may not have the time or ability to do this. A recent study by the American School Counselor’s Association (ASCA), suggests that the average guidance counselor spends about 38 minutes with your student in an entire school year! If you are present and send the message you are engaged in your child’s schooling, the counselor may be more likely to give you vital information happening at school such as conflict between peers or teachers, concerning drawings or messages, or just a sudden change in mood or affect. This is important information parents need to know so that you can follow up at home and to create a bridge between school and home life. If you haven’t yet, make an appointment with your child’s guidance counselor to introduce yourself. Face to face communication goes a long way!

Teamwork Between Families and School

Many times when I contact families to provide referral for therapy, resources for food or clothing donations, or insight into their child’s behavior I receive resistance. One thing parents and guardians need to know is that school administration wants to work as a team with you and your family. When school administration contacts you with information regarding your child, it is for your benefit and understanding. The intention is never to place blame, but to work as a team to provide consistency throughout the child’s life at school and at home. Remember that school is a whole different setting for your child, and it may bring out another side you have not seen yet. Trust in your school administration that they have your best interest at heart!

Michelle Smith

RMHCI, MS

Middle School Counselor

Are You Holding on to Resentment?

Resentment. We all have experienced the feeling of struggling to let go of anger towards ourselves or another person in our life. Buddha once said, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot goal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned”.

While this may be true, it can be a very difficult process to let go and allow acceptance to happen in your life. Anger is a valid emotion, its function is to take back power and be strong after we feel an injustice has occurred. If anger is consistent and not acknowledged we can become aggressive, self-shaming, provocative, aggressive, or even vengeful.

Before you understand the process of forgiveness. Let’s discuss the myths of what forgiveness is and is not. Many people believe forgiveness means reconciling a relationship. This is a myth. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean moving forward with the relationship in which you felt wronged by. Maybe it looks like setting a clear boundary with said person, or dissolving the relationship all together. Another myth I hear often in my practice is “If I forgive this person, I’m condoning the injustice and allowing the person to treat me this way in the future”. This is also a myth. By forgiving it is not granting mercy to the perpetrator, but allowing peace to and compassion towards yourself and the other person.

On the other side of the spectrum, sometimes we believe we have forgiven by saying “I’m sorry” or giving an apology, but we still are holding onto anger and resentment. Forgiveness can occur without ever speaking to the perpetrator, for instance clients with sexual abuse working towards forgiving their abusers or themselves in therapy settings. Forgiveness is an emotional change that starts a chain reaction of changed behaviors to increase quality of life for clients.

So how do you know if you are holding onto resentment? Some warning signs include:

-Ruminating thoughts of the injustice

-Fantasies of revenge

-Self-shaming

-Looking for evidence that your anger is valid and linking it to past incidents or behavior

The nature of resentment is that it is never only one incident. Resentment always extends into the past, and in severe cases carries into the future for instance if your extremely resentful you might say something like, “We’re doing OK now, but my birthday is coming up I know he/she will find something to screw it up then”.

If you’re holding onto that hot coal wishing for it to burn someone else, it may be time to put it down and acknowledge and validate your anger by talking to a professional. Forgiveness starts with you.

Contact Michelle Smith at 405-323-1786 for a free consultation for therapeutic services.

5 Phrases Your Child Says That Are Red Flags

“You don’t listen to me”

“You don’t understand me”

“You never hear me”

“You don’t know me”

“You don’t care”

Ouch! As a parent, these phrases are extremely hard and painful to hear from our children. We dedicate our lives to school pickups and drop-offs, chauffeuring to extracurricular activities, providing healthy lunches and dinners, making time for homework and projects, and much more. Hearing these phrases can be a huge damper, and they also may be necessary to examine to see if your child is crying out for more validation in their home environment.

I read a quote the other day that resonated with me it said, “Students who are loved at home come to school to learn, and students who aren’t come to school to be loved”. I have seen this testimony play out in a number of ways in my experience working with children, teens, and their families. Parents have the best of intentions to provide support, encouragement, and validation to their child, and it can also be one of the first things that falls to the wayside in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Validation is defined as, “recognition or affirmation that another’s feelings or opinion are worthwhile”. Note that validation is NOT defined as agreeing with, concurring too, or even encouraging the feelings or behavior of another. I’ve had many parents tell me that they are worried validation will create entitlement in their children. It actually is the exact opposite. Children who are not validated look for validation in negative places such as toxic relationships, substances, and negative friendships. You do not have to agree with your child to validate them. Validation is not encouraging those behavior and feelings, it is simply acknowledging that they are present.

So now that we know what validation is and is not, let’s think about what it looks like in the family. Children and teens are craving positive adult attention. If your child is saying the phrases above, they may not be getting the attention they are asking for and are acting out to gain any type of attention. After all, negative attention is better than no attention, right? As a parent is our responsibility to let our children know their voice matters, and we do that by validating their feelings, thoughts, and opinions.

A common way we invalidate our children is by forgetting to be present in moments which your child is reaching out for validation. Picture this. Your child comes home and begins to share about a kid in their class who is mean to them. You are in the middle of a very important email from work and decide not to look up from the computer, half listening to their story adding in “uh-huhs” and “oh really?” every once in a while. You may not be saying it or even mean it, but the message you are sending is “What you’re saying is less important than what I’m doing”. This message, if received often, can seriously affect your children’s emotional and mental well-being. I’ve had children and teens in my office or in session state that they would rather hold important information from their parents than share due to feeling a “burden” because of the lack of validation they receive at home, which is heartbreaking.

Another way validation is commonly missed is parents attempting to “fix” or “solve” all their children’s problems. When our children come to us with news it is the natural mother or fatherly response to want provide a solution. Although you are coming from a place of good intention, this can send the message that you have all the answers and you don’t want to listen to their feelings and opinions on the matter but put a Band-Aid on the issue. One way to help combat this is ask your child or teen, “Are you looking for my advice, or do you just want to vent right now?” This sends a clear message that your listening, present, and willing to provide whatever support your child is asking for in that particular moment.

Parents are rockstars in 2018. We do now more than ever to make sure our children are physically, emotionally, and mentally safe in our homes. It is easy to miss opportunities to validate your child, but with awareness and some attention we can utilize everyday moments to send the message our children’s voices and opinions matter by using these tools. Validating your child will increase your child’s self-esteem, awareness of self, emotional maturity, and decrease the likelihood for your child to engage in unsafe activities such as consuming violent media, substance use, and illegal activities as a teenager.

For more information on how you can validate your children contact:

Michelle Smith RMHCI, MS

3 Ways to Combat the “Post Break Blues”

Happy Wednesday families,

For many of you, another spring break has come and gone about as quickly as snowbirds flock back North once the summer heat returns in South Florida.

Your family may be experiencing some post break blues, and getting back into the school and work routine can be challenging for you and your tween or teen. The good news is there are some simple steps to make this process less painful all while encouraging your child’s development in skills like personal responsibility, consistency, and healthy thinking patterns.

1. Encourage time for reflection

The eb and flow of life is something that your children are learning to become familiar with and understand during their growing years. During the first week back to school, take time to sit down and reflect with your children on their feelings and thoughts regarding their break and stepping forward into finishing the school year. You can try this by playing the “roses and thorns” game in the car ride to or from school, or during dinner time this week. Ask each member of your family to reflect on the highs (roses) and lows (thorns) over their break. You may be surprised that some of your child’s most memorable moments were simply eating breakfast with you, or laughing at a funny video on YouTube. This also sends the message to your child that their input matters, and they are being heard. Win win!

2. Slowly adjust back into routine

Even for parents, it’s hard to keep the school, work, and home, life running like a well oiled machine. For teens and tweens, sticking to a consistent schedule can be a very difficult yet effective task to build responsible and healthy patterns. Be aware that changes in schedules can increase anxiety in your children. Although they may not admit it, youth THRIVE on structured schedules. In their day to day lives in school, every second is structured from arrival to dismissal. Consistency in your routine will help your child have a smooth transition back to their schedule. This week put some extra attention on those little details in routine, your child will notice and will model your behavior of slipping back into your schedule.

3. Stay Future Oriented

In case your counting it won’t be too long before summer vacation is here and schedules will yet be changing again. (70 days if your curious). Post vacation blues can produce more intense feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and lack of future thinking for you and your children. It can be helpful to have a goal or event to look forward to after a major shift in routine. Sit down this week with your child to discuss something coming up for your family in the future such as their school spelling bee, chess club competition, or Easter service participation. Encourage them to look forward to this event and prevent them from maintaining a “stuck” mindset. Children learn that everything is temporary, the good and bad times will come and go. How you as a parent model this transition is imperative in your child’s understanding of how to navigate inevitable changes in schedule and routine.

No matter what your feelings about going back to the grind, remember that your children are learning by watching and looking up to how you handle change! Have a wonderful week families!

Michelle Smith MS, RMHCI

(405) 323-1786

Raising Millennials: A New Generation of Parenting

A recent study stated that full time parenting is the equivalent of working 2.5 full time jobs. It’s true, parents are doing now more than ever to protect and encourage proper physical, mental, social, and emotional health for their children. Everyday parents are looking for new strategies to combat violence, social media, teenage angst, and family conflict. Millennial parents are truly deserving for praise for navigating the trial and error to understand parenting in the modern day.

Because being a parent is one of the most demanding and at times least appreciated job, it’s time to take a look at your own parenting regiment and make some changes for a happy and healthy spring ahead!

1. Take Time for Yourself

You’ve heard the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup”. As cliche as it may sound, it’s so important that as a parent with multiple responsibilities you are building regular consistent time in your schedule for self-care. Self-care is vital to being able to provide the best you possibly can to your family and loved ones. Figure out what revitalizes you and stick to it! Try taking a local donation yoga class, or sign up for a monthly massage membership! Many parents feel guilty taking time for themselves because they feel they may be “taking away” from time they could be spending with their families. Truth is, if we don’t take well deserved “me time” we loose the potential to be our very best at any given moment. Take time away to be a better you and leave the guilt at home!

2. Be Consistent with Family Guidelines

In my last post, we discussed the reality many millennial parents are facing protecting their children from the dangers of social media. It is important that as a family the messages regarding social media guidelines, usage, and rules you decide is best for your family remains consistent. Encourage your child to be a part of the conversation and support their understanding of the boundaries and reasons behind them. Give your child a safe place to be able to voice their opinion. Allow room for validation of feelings, and then encourage your child to let go of the emotion in a healthy way. By using this strategy, your family can avoid the teenage power struggle that many families find engaging in over and over to the point of exhaustion! Keep it consistent for less troubles down the road!

3. Get Involved

As busy schedules, life transition, and chaos can get in the way of doing as much as we would like to or feel we should be doing, and if you have the opportunity to be involved in your child’s life make it a priority! School line pick up, parent teacher conference nights, school performances, clubs and auditions. All of these are opportunities to send the message “You are Important!” something so many children, tweens, and teens so desperately need to hear from a safe and caring adult. Involved parents are informed parents. Getting involved and staying consistent are wonderful ways to be proactive to stay involved in your child’s life!

If your looking for fun and free spring break activities in Palm Beach County during Spring Break click here!

If you or someone you know is looking for tips on increasing communication skills and family bond with your child or teen contact Michelle Smith, MS, RMHCI at 405-323-1786 for a consultation for individual, couple, or family therapy services

Find me on Psychology Today

What Parents Need to Know About the Social Media Children and Teens are Consuming

It would be an understatement to say that social media govern the lives of our youth at any given moment. A recent study reports that tweens ages 8-12 spend an average of 6 hours in front of a screen a day, for teenagers 13 and above that number increases to 9 hours a day. Our youth are spending more time online than they are sleeping, in school, or doing any other activity.  As a parent, it can be confusing and concerning navigating the waves of the technological boom and deciphering an appropriate boundary when it comes to social media.

The internet is a vast plethora of 7.4 million people’s imaginations. The information shared can be dangerous, violent, sexually exploited and worse. Our children’s minds are not fully developed to consume this content and distinguish the validity or even make decisions about it. Even adults at times have trouble distinguishing this content, can we expect our children and teens to be able to decipher it without support or knowledge from a caring adult?

You may be thinking “Well my child is advanced enough to understand it”. Unfortunately, science says otherwise. The prefrontal cortex, the area which covers the front part of the brain, controls planning, complex thoughts and behaviors, decision making, personality expression, and moderates our social behavior. Essentially, it governs our executive functioning. Because the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until age 25, many of our children do not have the ability YET to carry out the critical thinking necessary to be safe online.

In addition, studies have also shown that social media can be addicting. In fact, app developers are actually working to make these apps addicting so they increase their revenues, spending thousands of dollars on studies of the brain to market and reel in our vulnerable youth. Scientists have found that teenagers can even experience withdrawal symptoms from social media. You may have seen witnessed some of these in your own children such as panic attacks when electronics get taken away, anxiety about being away from electronics or wifi, anger, and temper tantrums. We wonder why our children’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. The media they are consuming is a large contribution.

Consistent social media usage also leads to low self esteem, cyber bullying, and can increase suicidal ideations for teenagers already struggling with depression. Bullying no longer stops when your child gets in the car to go home from school. Now harassment follows them home on their devices, preventing the opportunity for children to recharge and engage in self care.

If you haven’t downloaded and looked at some of the things your child is consuming online, you are living in parenting La La Land. Teens post nude photos, suicide ideas and plans, gang related or violent material, and drugs and alcohol. 30% of teens have reported in a recent study that they believe their parents know “nothing” or “a little” about what they do online.

Last week I spent a lot of my time providing support to a family who recently found out their 14 year old son was sending sexually explicit content and sharing homicidal ideations with an active plan to friends on an app called Hangouts.  This app is accessed through Gmail accounts, and friends can message back and forth in group chats. It broke my heart to watch a loving and caring mother begin to see the reality of what is happening on her child’s social media. For this family, early intervention is no longer an option. They are now playing catch up trying to provide the support needed for this young man.

Be proactive when it comes to restricting media content from your children. Taking away electronics if they have already had unlimited access will be harder than setting firm and clear boundaries in the beginning. Provide regular restrictions on the amount of time your child spends in front of a screen. Encourage them to engage in their own imagination and be mindful in the moment instead of SnapChatting it. Look for signs of social media addiction such as anger and anxiety from being away from electronics, being up all day/night in front of a screen, and being secretive regarding their social media usage. Make sure you know your teen’s phone and computer passwords, Apple ID, and the multiple accounts they may have.

Parents are responsible to protect their children. Social media provides a false security because we do not see the danger in the moment. It is our responsibility to research and discuss the dangers of social media with our children. Provide incentives for them to be without social media until 16 years old, when the brain is more capable to consume such confusing messages. When you do allow social media, track it on a regular basis using apps like Onward, Onpact, and Life360. There is an effective way to parent in the world of technology and social media!

If your teen is engaging in alarming content or you see signs of internet addiction it may be time to talk to a professional. For a free consultation for therapeutic services contact Michelle Smith RMHCI, MS at 405-323-1786