Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Keeping Your Kids Safe Online: Internet Slang Every Parent Should Know

Do you know what your kids are up to online? Of course you do! You’ve blocked all the porn sites, set up filters, and even have a monitoring program to let you know if your kids are talking about sex, or porn, or meeting up with “uncle bob” from the chat room. You’re a smart parent, but you'd be shocked if you knew what your kids were really talking about online. 

There’s a new trend popular among teenage chatters, and your filters won’t pick up any of it. It’s called l33tspeak, netspeak or just plain internet slang (leet speak from the word elite). You know what I’m talking about. Acronyms like lol, wtf, bbiab, and nm. Today's kids are also lazy, and use single letter words: U replaces you, R replaces are, o replaces oh, m replaces am etc… 

Less popular, but still widely used (especially in games) is true l33tspeak, which involves using numbers instead of letters. 4 replaces A, 3 replaces E, 7 replaces T, 1 replaces L, and $ replaces S. These are just a few examples, some of it is worse like /\/ and /\/\ , or 13 instead of B. 

Today’s kids are taking their creativity to the internet, and it’s affecting the way they speak. Kids (just like computer programmers) don't like to type a lot, so they try to shorten their keystrokes whenever possible. It's not only affecting the way they speak, it's starting to affect the way they write. So bad in fact, that school teachers have even reported seeing “lol” (laughing out loud) turn up on hand-written papers. (How would you pronounce that?) 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Imperfect Happy Families

Look around! Our society is consumed with image. From what we drive, to what we wear, to what we do, to what neighborhood we live in, etc. Many in society seem to care more about what others think of them than anything else. With this embedded deeply in our culture, we see some effects in some parenting trends.

Many of today’s high achieving parents grew up in a household where achievement was expected. Nothing other than complete success could be accepted or tolerated. This generational theme can go from one generation to the next. There are benefits to this pattern including professional success, learning, growth and potential financial earnings. However, we have seen some of the negative effects over the years as well.

I would like to address achievement versus happiness. If our main goal is achievement with our parenting, children can develop internal scripts related to perfectionism. Depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem can also result as children receive the message that they cannot measure up to older siblings’ level of advancement or parental expectations.

Some children hear that if they do not attend the college their brother/sister attended than they are “less than.” Others may internalize that they are a disappointment to the family “if they don’t”….

Over the years I have worked with a lot of children. Many times these children have initially been in special private schools for the gifted or other high demand academic settings. As this process produced negative results, parents took a step back to see what their child really needed. Sometimes these children were initially placed in private schools for high achievers more for the parents’ internal well being than what was right for the child. As parents, we sometimes place our own issues on our children and do things more to satisfy our own needs rather than really what is best for our child.

One suggestion I would like to give is to make a shift and to focus on internal attributes and values—such as being kind, hardworking, and accountable. These qualities are attainable and will serve a child across their life span. Having the highest GPA, being the very best athlete, or being the most accomplished pianist can be very stressful and anxiety producing endeavors. Being a kind, hardworking, and accountable person will usually produce excellent results.

Another suggestion is to take a step back and examine how you are living your life. What are the motives behind what you do? Are you happy with how you live your life? Are your unresolved childhood issues pushing you down a life path that does not provide you happiness? Your example of how you live your life will be the most influential parenting you will ever do. Parenting is often caught, not taught.

Lastly, I would like to emphasize unconditional love for children who often behave in unlovable ways. I am sometimes amazed how well the families I work with love and accept their children despite the years of struggle gone by. These parents are some of my true heroes.

One final word; please know that I believe in getting things done and achieving. If one of our children does a poor job cleaning the toilet we have him go back and fix the problem. Learning to do a good job in life is an invaluable life skill. However, when accomplishment is taken to the extreme, bad effects may soon follow. Sometimes a heavy dose of lightening up is essential!

The goal is to have a happy family. I believe that happy families are a result of many factors. I have touched on one of them in this blog post. My hope is that we can all be a part of an Imperfect Happy Family.

Matt Erickson, LCSW

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

EMDR: A Resource for Trauma Victims

When I first heard about EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, I thought that it sounded interesting but I was unsure if it could really be helpful to trauma victims. From the things I heard from other therapists, I thought that EMDR sounded a little too good to be true and I didn't understand how waving my fingers in front of someone's eyes would help them process through anything.  However, as I have been trained in EMDR and have used it in my practice, I have seen some very positive and promising results. EMDR is a psychotherapy approach that has been seen to help individuals who have experienced trauma.  It is a therapy that is geared towards addressing disturbing life experiences that have not been processed and that in turn contribute to clinical problems. The idea is that memory networks are the basis of mental health and if a memory has gone unprocessed and is dysfunctionally stored at the time of the event, an individual can be triggered repeatedly throughout life until the memory is reprocessed.  A memory can go unprocessed if an individual is experiencing high levels of emotion at the time of a disturbing event. Any life experience that has a lasting negative impact can be considered trauma in this regard (like the time someone swapped the gummy worms on my ice cream for real worms).

EMDR is a multi-stage approach but perhaps the most important aspect to understand is why therapists use bilateral stimulation during the process. Bilateral stimulation is stimuli that occurs in a left-right rhythmic pattern and it can be auditory, visual or tactile. Essentially, during the session, the therapist will ask the client to bring up a memory that is difficult or traumatic. While the client is thinking back on this memory, the therapist will stimulate each side of the client's brain. This can be done through eye movements by the client following the therapist's fingers back and forth or by tapping the client's knees left-right. This may sound strange or uncomfortable but the finding is that by stimulating both sides of the brain while a troubling image is brought up, processing occurs. Think about when you are sleeping- in REM sleep your eyes move back and forth and your brain is processing through the previous day, all the while memories are being stored. It has been found that replicating this process through EMDR, memories that have become stuck may be reprocessed and individuals can become desensitized to the memories that once triggered them. The thing that I have found to be most interesting during my experience with EMDR is how intricate the memory network is. One memory could be tied to another that is seemingly unrelated. For example, during the processing a client could start by thinking about a memory of being bullied at school and after the bilateral stimulation a memory may come up of falling off his or her bike or not wanting to eat grandmother's homemade marmalade. Essentially the brain and all the memory networks are so complex and interconnected in patterns that we cannot always logically understand. This is why EMDR may have the ability to target some negative thoughts or troubling memories that a client may not be able to identify through straight talk therapy. As I mentioned above, I have seen positive outcomes from utilizing EMDR and as a therapist I am glad to have it as a resource to help victims of trauma.

KJ Green, CSW

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Home Base

 As my 2 ½ year old daughter and I watched Star Wars again the other night, it occurred to me that in almost every epic science fiction, fantasy, or comic book film, all of the heroes have one thing in common. Sure, The Flash and Deadpool have cool costumes, Thor and Luke Skywalker have unique weapons, Superman and The Sentry have unparalleled strength, and Darth Vader and Batman have tragic origin stories. But as I watched the X-Wings in Star Wars depart to destroy the Death Star from the planet of Yavin IV for the 237th time in my life, it really struck me hard that all heroes have one particular thing in common: A magnificent home base from which they depart, and, perhaps more importantly, which they return to and seek refuge in when their amazing adventures are complete.

Whether it’s The Avengers leaving Avengers Mansion, Batman riding forth from the Batcave, the rebels in Star Wars launching from Yavin IV, or Thor journeying from Asgard to Earth, each hero sets out on the adventure of overcoming their own various trials, and eventually they return to the home base from which they departed, tired and exhausted from their journey but also wiser and more skilled than when they began. No matter what walk of life or part of the world they come from, every student at Logan River has the same thing in common in that they, too, come from fantastic home bases. Although the student bears the greatest burden, similar to Frodo carrying the One Ring in The Lord of The Rings books and movies, parents metaphorically serve as their daughter or son’s own Fellowship of the Ring and walk side by side with them, providing support along their path of discovery and furnishing them with the home base to return to at the end of their grand adventure of discovery.

Logan River Academy stresses the importance of our students abiding by what we call the 5 Principles For Effective Living, which are Honesty, Respect, Accountability, Fairness, and Caring. Novelist George Moore once said, “A man travels the world over in search of what he needs, and returns home to find it”. Though the student during their time at Logan River Academy is able to search out and ascertain what they need, it’s of the utmost importance that they are able to return to their home base to find these same principles being practiced on a daily basis. Despite any chaos or discord the student may have caused in the home in the past, their home still functions to them much in the same manner that Superman retreats to his Fortress of Solitude and takes time to heal while reflecting on lessons learned and ways to process and utilize the information in order to bet met with success in his next trial and in life.

Brandon Bailey, ACMHC