“Where are you going to college?”
“Which school did you pick?”
“What is your major?”
I’ve noticed that a lot of people tend to assume that everyone is going to college. When we talk to someone age 16-22, we automatically start asking the above questions (me included). Wouldn’t it be nicer to ask “What are your plans after high school?” or for the older youth “Are you working or in school?"
We have great technical schools in our area. This is a great option for a lot of youth and should be encouraged. I often have the impression that it is looked down upon, as if the kids that choose to go there are not considered as bright as the kids that go to college. There are so many options at tech schools for a lot of great careers. Plus, a kid finishes their programs ready to work and with a lot less debt than college. In addition, a lot of the high schools offer the A+ program. If a student completes this program, they receive two years of community college or technical school free.
Some youth want to go right into the workforce. Maybe they need a break from school or maybe they want to learn a trade/obtain an apprenticeship. Forcing (or strongly encouraging) someone to go to college just because it seems like that it is what they “should” be doing, usually results in poor outcomes. There are numerous places that you can start out at with a high school diploma and work your way up. Sometimes they even pay for classes (if needed) along the way.
Of course, college is a great choice for a lot of people. It just doesn’t have to be the only choice.
I was thinking the other day about how different kids' exposure to violence is now compared to when I was little. I graduated from high school in 2000. There were a few school shootings when I was in high school but the only one I heard of during that time was Columbine. Thinking back, there are only a few other big instances of violence I really remember hearing about (Oklahoma bombing being a big one because we happened to have a half day of school that day so we heard about it on the radio). The internet has changed our access to news so we hear about things more quickly but mass shootings and acts of terrorism have also increased dramatically. I was going to include a link to show this to be true but I couldn't decide on which article as many include varying politics but if you google incident of mass shootings from 1990s compared to 2010s you will find a numerous articles. I'm not writing to talk about why this is or what should be done to stop it. My concern is what the effect is having on the children, adolescents, and teens growing up with this violence as the norm. Just me writing "as the norm" is the problem. My children are growing up with horrible violence as the norm. Going to the movies, a concert, even church are not safe. I realize that there are people in the world that have never lived in a safe, comfortable country. That saddens me. But America is a democratic, free country where this should not occur. But it is. So how is it effecting our kids?
This is just my opinion, but I feel it is creating a generation that will have less empathy. As each horrible tragedy occurs, youth (and probably many adults) start to be less shocked, less outraged, less saddened. They are becoming desensitized to these events. They hear about the events or read bits and pieces of them but do not really connect to them. It is just another story.
We have to fight this. I don't want our youth to walk around scared in our world but I do want them to be concerned about what is going on in the world. When tragedy strikes, talk with your kids about ways your family can help. You can donate money, goods, food, etc to a cause. Write a letter to a survivor. Organize a bake sale or a lemonade stand. Empower our children to help those they do not know. This not only helps them connect with those effected by the tragedies but it teaches them to be kind which I teach my children is the most important thing to be.
Time To Be Silly
Recently I was walking around Six Flags with my husband, older sister, and eight children ranging from age 3 to thirteen. We could hear music playing and I started to dance. I then shouted out "bonus for anyone else who dances." My kids immediately started dancing. (And by dancing I meaning wiggling our shoulders, kicking our legs, moving our hips-no "real" dance moves). One of my nephews asked what the bonus was while some of his siblings started dancing too. My sister and husband joined in. While still dancing, I explained there is no real bonus but fun. He laughed and did not join in. I guarantee we looked silly but we were having fun. That was the point. Sometimes, we need to be silly and have fun.
I have a lot of clients that struggle with anxiety. One of my intake questions is what do they do for fun. I am shocked by how many people, especially teenagers, struggle to answer this or initially state they do not have a lot of time for fun. No wonder they are anxious! We are doing ourselves and our kids a disservice by not allowing a time for fun. I don't care if we have to schedule it in, but we need to make time for it. Even if that means blocking out an hour for unstructured, unplugged (meaning no electronics) activities. I'm all for sports, music, clubs, etc but are they fun? I know many kids who participate in activities they have not thought was fun for years. I would much rather see a kid playing in a very low key, non competitive league where they have fun then in a select sport. Now if your kid loves the select sport and has fun most of the time, great. But between seasons, check in and make sure they the last season was enjoyable.
Fun should happen at school sometimes too. If your kid thinks school is horrible all the time, connect with the supports there to see if this can be improved. Not all students will love school, but everyone should find something they can enjoy there. Even if it is a club, lunchtime, or a special (Art, PE, FACS, etc).
As adults, we need to have fun too. Are we taking time to do things we enjoy? Do we have hobbies separate from our families and work? Balance is key.
And don't be afraid to just stop and dance sometimes:)
In my last post, I talked about asking your kids to donate old toys. Now I'm asking you to donate your belongings. With the holidays comes a lot of new belongings. Which means clutter! Yep, clutter. I know we love presents but we all only need so much. I know we are lucky to have these sort of problems. They are often called "First World problems." And they are just that for many Americans, but not all. Not everyone is lucky enough to have too much.
When we donate, we are helping others in a variety of ways depending on the organization you donate to. There are many options to choose from. For example, we recently donated our dining room table and chairs to Habitat for Humanity. They will sell it and use the profit to help with the homes they build. They even picked it up at our house! You can go online and search for organizations that accept donations and pick one that supports causes you believe in.
I suggest donating two to three items for every one item you are anticipating to receive this holiday season. It would be nice to start the new year with less clutter, more organization. I know it is easy for me to write this and harder to do but challenge yourself! We often hold onto things we never use. If you didn't use something in 2017, you most likely do not need to hold on to it. Plus, the end of the year can be a great time to donate depending on your tax situation (think tax deductions).
"I want a new doll."
"I want a new video game."
"I want a new art kit."
It's that time of year when the "I wants" come out. The holidays bring a lot of traditions and one of those includes presents. We've been discussing what everyone wants for Christmas at my house so that we can look for deals. If fact, I'm betting a lot of you found some great deals last week on gifts. I know I did!
During this time of year, I ask my kids to pick out some toys that they can donate. We talk about how some families cannot afford to have as many toys and that we should give to the less fortunate.
As we believe in Santa in my house, my kids believe that Santa will bring other children gifts but we remind them that their parents also want to be able to give them gifts and by donating some of our toys, they will be able to do this. We also try to participate in some other holiday collections that want new toys. We have not always been able to do this as some years have been leaner than others for us but when able, we do purchase new toys to donate,
My kids do struggle at times with donating old toys. Sometimes they want to donate toys not in good condition. We have to help them understand that if they would not want to play with it, neither would other kids. Other times they say they have no toys to give. They NEED them all. This is a bit harder and longer of a conversation as we talk about how they really only NEED a few toys but they WANT a lot. We also talk about what Christmas time really means (for us Jesus' birthday) and ways to be kind.
Like Cleaning a Wound
Well that title has some lovely imaging, doesn't it?:) That's how I describe therapy sometimes. It is like cleaning a wound. It can be painful at first but it is needed in order to heal. The first few sessions are sometimes the most difficult. In fact, I often tell clients how brave they are for being able to come to a stranger and share their struggles, their hopes, their fears. . .
Think about a cut that is never washed. It is very likely to start becoming red, then oozing, and then a fever may set in. If you didn't seek medical attention, you could end up losing a limb or worse. I hope you wouldn't do that to your physical body, so don't do it mentally/emotionally either!
Often it is hard to make a therapy appointment. Maybe we think we will get better by ourselves. Maybe we are afraid what people will think. Maybe we don't know what to expect. Maybe we had a bad experience in therapy before. Maybe all of those things! I encourage you, though, if you have been thinking about it to give a therapist a call and chat for a few minutes and ask questions. Most therapists will talk for a few minutes for free and you can get a feel of how things will go. Also, it is okay after the first session to seek a different therapist if you don't feel like you guys are a good fit. BUT, don't stop if the session was hard because what you are working on is hard. Again, it is like cleaning a wound at times. If you are working through something painful, it will be painful. That doesn't mean it is not worth it.
Also, let your therapist know if you are having an really hard time after sessions. Your therapist should be able to help you learn some techniques to regulate better and calm down. He/she can practice them with you at the end of the session too. It also can be fun to end the session on a lighter note in order to leave the session in a more uplifting state.
I often have clients tell me people think they can “snap out of it” and feel better. That they have total power over how they are feeling and can control all of their symptoms. The report that they are viewed as weak since they feel depressed. This is like telling someone with cancer to just think differently and it will go away. While it is true that not everyone who is depressed needs medication, it is not as simple as just deciding to think differently. Challenging one’s own thinking is a powerful tool in treating depression but it is just one tool. And it can be hard. Depression can make one feel like nothing will work and one will never feel better. It can make one feel like happiness is unattainable.
If someone in your life is depressed, here are some ways to help:
We are a country in turmoil. It seems most people have taken sides and no one wants to listen to what the other side has to say. I’m guilty of this too. While much of the world is being ravaged by natural disasters (our country included), we are fighting each other. Don’t get me wrong, I see plenty of examples of people helping people but not enough. We can do MORE!
We need to start looking at different perspectives. We need to put ourselves in others shoes. We cannot do this by continuing to go to the same sources, the same people we have always relied on. It is time to step outside our comfort zone. I would love suggestions of reliable sites, blogs, etc that can help shed some light on different viewpoints. I recently shared on my personal Facebook page an article from Good Black News (https://goodblacknews.org/2016/07/14/editorial-what-i-said-when-my-white-friend-asked-for-my-black-opinion-on-white-privilege/). I felt it was insight. I need more!
I think we also need to go out into our community and start interacting with different people. We can start by volunteering, attending a school event, a church event, or a community gathering. Then we can talk to a few people we don’t know. Conversations can lead to understanding.
In addition, we can be stop making assumptions. We don’t know another’s story, their struggles, or what led them to where they are now. We can, however, be KIND!
"How long are you grounded for?"
"I don't know."
I hear this very often. A client broke the rules and received a consequence. Sometimes a blanket grounding of everything, sometimes loss of privileges, and sometimes a specific activity. When the youth does not know how long the consequences will last, it tends to make them more anxious. This actually makes it harder for them to follow the rules. The constant worry added on top of anger for whatever was taken away (rightfully so or not), and wondering when will their "good" behavior be enough. I'm all for waiting till you (the parent) calm down in order to give consequences but a definite timeline with definite expectations or goals is needed and helpful. Also, remember perfection is not the goal. We're crabby and irritable at times and our kids will be too.
Stefanie F. Pisarkiewicz, LPC
Experience and information from a counselor and mother- sharing her two cents on children and teens.