Loosing Our Kids to Technology

When I was growing up, 16 families including mine shared the same phone line. It was rare when I could talk to a friend.   When could, I couldn’t go to my room to talk in private because the phone was connected by a cord to the outlet.  It is much different today.  Teens have phones in their pockets and can have private conversations anytime and anywhere. Teens Prefer to Be Alone than with Friends The Atlantic published an article about the isolating effects of technology.  Jean M. Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University and the author of Generation Me and iGen, interviewed a 13-year-old girl about her cell phone usage. She reported that instead of being with friends, they preferred being alone in their rooms using Snapchat and other apps to communicate with and in some cases blackmail each other.  The teen stated: “ I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.” She added, “I’ve been on my phone more than I’ve been with actual people,” Excessive Cell Phone Usage Leads to Unhappiness & Depression Studies overwhelmingly reveal the more time teens spend on cell phones, Instagraming, Snapchatting and Facebooking the more unhappy they are, and the less time they spend in these activities, the happier they are. This depression increased dramatically when more than 50% of America owned cell phones. Since then the amount of “boys’ depressive symptoms increased by 21 percent . . . while girls’ increased by 50 percent—more than twice as much.” One distressing warning is “Teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, such as making a suicide plan.”  Increase Fear & Anxiety Social media has other disturbing side effects. When not connected, some teens experience more fear as well as judgment worrying if their…

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The Happiness Connection

The other day my friend and website designer asked me what I meant by connection.  It was a good question.    For me it means parents and children, family, and friends, creating respectful, caring relationships that benefit everyone often for the rest of their lives.  Today I read a story that James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, shared.  It and the accompanying explanation by Desmond Tutu expands on what I mean by connection: 1 + 1  > 2 or the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, in other words  synergy.  A healthy relationship between a parent and child is more than just the connection they share. It becomes a source of strength, resilience, and optimism. It helps a child develop trust and compassion and prepares them for life-long success. As the following story illustrates, connection among friends develops compassion and happiness. “There was an anthropologist who had been studying the habits and culture of a remote African tribe. He had been working in the village for quite some time and the day before he was to return home, he put together a gift basket filled with delicious fruits from around the region and wrapped it in a ribbon. He placed the basket under a tree and then he gathered up the children in the village. The man drew a line in the dirt, looked at the children, and said, “When I tell you to start, run to the tree and whoever gets there first will win the basket of the fruit.” When he told them to run, they all took each other’s hands and ran together to the tree. Then they sat together around the basket and enjoyed their treat as a group. The anthropologist was shocked. He asked why they would all go together when one of them could have won all the fruits for…

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Gaming & Dis-Connection

Growing up, my sons loved playing Sonic the Hedge Hog and Zelda.  One even enjoyed it so much he would forget to eat.  When it was time to stop playing, they usually became angry and demanded more time. Now I understand why. Dr. Victoria L. Dunckley, psychiatrist, author of Reset Your Child’s Brain and screen-time expert, explains that when children play video games dopamine “the feel good chemical” is released in their brains “and when they stop they are in a relative state of withdrawal.” She added they may become “tearful, irritable, disorganized, depressed and feel they can’t concentrate.” Gaming is changing our children’s brains and behavior in other ways as well. Video game companies claim that a teen sitting in a room alone playing a video game is not isolating because there are games that can be played on the Internet with people from around the world.  But playing a video game with someone in another state or country is not the same as being with them.  Dr. Daniel Keltner, professor of psychology at University of California, Berkeley, states  "In recent years, a wave of studies has documented some incredible emotional and physical health benefits that come from touch. This research is suggesting that touch is truly fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health." Touch promotes attachment, cooperation, increases compassion and friendship, reduces stress, the risk of disease and increases the immune system. Touch is lost when gaming.  There is no physical interaction, which humans and especially children need. The gamer is alone in the room. There are no celebratory high 5s or knuckle bumps, no pats on the back. nor encouraging nudges . Eye contact is lost, which in some cultures it is a cornerstone of non-verbal communication between individuals. It signals to the other person that you are engaged and listening.  It also indicates that the…

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Conscious Discipline: Building Connection at Home and at School

Have you heard of Conscious Discipline?  It is a trauma informed, evidenced based, comprehensive SEL, social, emotional learning, for schools and home founded by Dr. Becky Bailey. I learn about it during my marriage and family internship. One of my supervisors recommended that I research Conscious Discipline because I wanted to learn more about how to help children.   Since then I have attended a one-day, two-day and week-long seminar. I was always the fish out of water being the only MFT in the room of preschool and elementary teachers and school administrators.  What I like so much about it is that it is based on relationships-connection--governing behavior instead of rewards, consequences and resorting to threats. Have you noticed that you treat people you are close to differently than you treat that you aren’t or even strangers.  When you are friends with someone, you tolerate and often ignore behavior that may have otherwise annoyed you.  When you have a disagreement you tend to resolve it amicably. CD helps the brain build neural networks, which increase impulse control, positive behavior, increase attention. Dr. Bailey provides parents advice how to build safe, secure, supportive relationships with their children. At school, this is done by building classroom relationships through songs, greetings, and activities. Younger children participate in I Love You Rituals, and older children in team building rituals with eye contact and touch, presents, playfulness. Something magical and mystical happens when people sustain eye contact.  An intimate connection is made. As students build relationship with teachers and friends disagreements and behavior problems in the classroom decrease. They have more compassion for each other and want to resolve disagreements instead of fighting. For children to be successful in school parent-child, teacher-student and student to student relationships are necessary. To increase your children's academic success go to Consciousdiscipline.com.

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The Dayton Shootings

After the tragic shootings in El Paso and Dayton last weekend, today I would like to share this inspired response from a dear friend of mine, Linda Theobald Sellers: In Dayton today, people are grieving, angry, anxious and heartbroken. The truth is, it could have happened anywhere. Let's not give into the fear. Let's stand up boldly and declare that "I am not afraid to live." Let's keep enjoying each others company and continue visiting the Oregon district. Let's not make this tragedy worse by causing businesses to fail and enjoyment to cease. Let's not turn our anger over this event into more hate and perpetuate the anger, hurting more lives. Let's not take on the deep suffering by restricting ourselves from having a good time, staying home and being miserable out of fear. We need each other. We need to go out and be social. We need to support everyone. Let's come together and grieve the loss. Let's love more. Let's listen to our neighbor more. Let's have more compassion for the hurting, the angry, the unsettled. Let's listen and actually hear their story. Let's find ways to spread love instead of anger and fear. It's easy to blame gun laws because right now; there is not much that an individual can do to change that tomorrow. But an individual can make a difference today by choosing to be more loving and kind. Choosing to mourn with the victims and their families. Choosing to gather with friends and make new friends at the establishments downtown. Let's erase our fear by loving our community! As you can discern from this post, Linda is a gifted therapist.  To learn more about her practice please visit https://www.theemotionconnectionworks.com/

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Sticks and Stone Can Break Bone and Words Can Crush My Chips.

The speaker, Hank Smith, held up a, bright yellow and red bag of chips for the audience to see.  Then he closed his hands around the cellophane crushed it several times.  Afterwards he held it up again.  The bag looked the same on the outside, but as he shook it, everyone could hear crumbs rattling inside.   He explained that something similar happens to people and children when they are verbally abused.  They look the same on the outside, but are bruised and broken on the inside.  I liked this illustration and tried it with a family I was counseling.  The father shook his head, as I handed him two bags of chips and explained that each time his son and daughter said something mean to each other, it was like crushing a bag of their favorite chips--in this case the son liked classic Lay's potato chips and the daughter liked spicy Doritos.  I continued, “The bag looks the same after squeezing it, but not the chips inside.” I asked him to crush them once each time his children said something hurtful to each other and then report back.  He credulously took the bags and agreed. Then I told the siblings that next week I would give them their bag of chips, and warned them, “It's up to you what condition they are in.” The following week, to the father’s surprise, he said that it worked.  He only had to crush the bag of Lays once and the Doritos twice.  This is a fun way to help families members visualize what happens when they say cruel things to each other.  But there is nothing humorous about verbal abuse.  It is so serious that when children hear verbal abuse, it is similar to witnessing domestic violence and it can alter their brains' structure.  Adolescent and adult victims report they wish that…

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Fall in Love with the Process of Attachment

James Clear in Atomic Habits writes about falling in love with the process of achieving your goal instead of the goal itself.  If you are always waiting to achieve the goal to be happy, that may never happen, but if you enjoy the journey along the way, the process becomes the focus.  It is in the process you succeed or fail.   For example you can have the goal of being a musician.  The goal doesn’t make it happen.  It is the daily practice, the process, that makes it happen. Don’t’ get me wrong.  Goals are important.  They tell you which way to go.  Otherwise you would be like Alice in “Alice in Wonderland,” taking to the Cheshire cat:“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here? The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to. Alice: I don't much care where. The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn't much matter which way you go. Alice: ...So long as I get somewhere. The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you're sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.” Changing the process is answer to correcting the problem permanently.  For example, you want a clean car, so you wash it everyday.  But everyday you drive through a mud puddle on your way to work.  Washing your car daily achieves your goal temporarily, but if you always want a clean car you need to steer around the mud instead of through it.  Clear explains, “When you solve problems at the results level, you only solve them temporarily.  In order to improve for good, you need to solve problems at the systems level.  Fix the inputs and the outputs will fix themselves.” Great advice, but what does it have to do with parents, children and attachment.   Parents want children to become happy, confident, self-reliant, successful…

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