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Our Mental Health Blogs

My Child Has Autism

My Child Has Autism

Television and movies are the extent of my knowledge about autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. I’ve been led to believe that people with autism are either like Rain Man (an autistic savant) or less gifted, empathy-denied individuals loved by their parents who understand their child cannot love them back.

Boy, have I been misled.

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Help for Families Raising Children with Mood Disorders

Help for Families Raising Children with Mood Disorders

My son struggles with moderate anxiety from time to time. In turn, I struggle with knowing how best to help him. When I read Angela McClanahan’s blog on parenting a child with a mental illness, I feel renewed gratitude for my comparatively much smaller-scale parenting struggles. Angela’s son has childhood bipolar disorder and her blog illustrates the enormous challenges facing families raising children with mood disorders.

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Labeling and Medicating Our Mentally Ill Children

Labeling and Medicating Our Mentally Ill Children

It’s becoming more and more common for children to be diagnosed with mental health issues. We see labeling and medications dispensed now more than ever before for children who may not have been considered anything other than “unique” or “challenging”  in years past. There’s no doubt about it, children suffer, too. But our guest, Dr. Marilyn Wedge, says that she has never, in 20 years of practice, seen a case that could not be resolved by family therapy.

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Parenting an Autistic Child

Parenting an Autistic Child

If I’d had to win the job of mother to my son on a Survivor-style reality game show, I would have been voted off within the first 6 months. As it is, I’ve lasted almost 13 years and done okay for the most part. But much of that success has to do with the fact that my child is physically and mentally healthy. In other words, he’s not that difficult to parent. Children with autism have special limitations and needs that are bound to make parenting an autistic child an exponentially greater challenge than parenting already is.

ginger-taylorParenting Children with Autism Presents Special Challenges

Life is minute to minute for Ginger Taylor, our guest on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show. In 2005, her son was diagnosed with autism. She says parenting an autistic child presents special challenges, including:

  • Keeping him safe from harm. A priority for any parent, but autism complicates matters of safety.
  • Paying expensive medical bills. Children with autism often require more medical care than their peers.
  • Feeling isolated from others. Ginger says it’s difficult for people to understand her family’s struggles.
  • Advocating for her child. I have to show up for parent-teacher meetings a couple of times a year and make sure my son does his homework. Parenting an autistic child through their school years requires far more time and effort.

Ginger says her strong marriage, faith, and support group help her cope with the unique challenges of parenting an autistic child.

Video on Parenting an Autistic Child

Ginger joined us for a frank discussion about the challenges, risks, and rewards of parenting children with autism. Watch the video interview, The Responsibility of Raising an Autistic Child, and learn more about her experience as the mother of an autistic child.

You can find all mental health video interviews from the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show in the table of contents.

Share Your Parenting Experiences

Are you parenting an autistic child? Does your child have a disorder other than autism that challenges you as a parent? How do you cope? We invite you to call us at 1-888-883-8045 and share your experiences and insights on parenting children with autism or other special needs. (Info on Sharing Your Mental Health Experiences here.) You can also leave comments below.

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Help for Parents of Teenagers

Help for Parents of Teenagers

My son is 12 and will officially enter the realm of adolescence in a matter of months. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard dire warnings and grave well wishes from parents who have been there and know firsthand the unique challenges that go along with parenting teenagers. I’ve assumed for some time that parents-in-the-know exaggerate the difficulties facing parents of teenagers for comic effect. But as my son nears the age of 13, I’m forced to consider that maybe they aren’t kidding. Already I struggle to deal with behaviors and attitudes I’ve never encountered in my son before. Fortunately, there’s a wealth of advice and help for parents of teenagers available to guide those of us new to parenting adolescents.

coveradolescentownermanualExpert Help for Parents of Teenagers

Dr. David Laing Dawson is the author of The Adolescent Owner’s Manual and our guest on this week’s edition of the  HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show. Dr. Dawson is a child and adolescent psychiatrist and has been focusing on children, teens and families for over ten years. His book offers a refreshing look at the puzzling world faced by today’s teens and their parents who are trying to guide them. Incorporating advances in neuroscience, Dr. Dawson clearly describes how teen brains work and offers practical advice and help for parents of teenagers in a fun and relaxing style.

hp-vid-david-laing-dawson-smYour goal as a parent should be to get your adolescent child into adulthood, alive, healthy, preferably educated and skilled, without a major drug problem or criminal record or pregnancy. Anything more is icing and a pleasure to behold. – Dr. David Laing Dawson

Video on Parenting Teenagers

Watch the video interview with Dr. Dawson, Successfully Parenting Your Adolescent, as he discusses some common parenting challenges and offers practical help for parents of teenagers.

You can find all mental health video interviews from the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show in the table of contents.

Share Your Experiences with Parenting Teenagers

Are you the parent of a teenager? What challenges do you encounter? What strategies and tools have you found most effective? We invite you to call us at 1-888-883-8045 and share your experiences, insights, and help for parents of teenagers. (Info on Sharing Your Mental Health Experiences here.) You can also leave comments below.

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Video Game Addiction: The Search for Treatment

Video Game Addiction: The Search for Treatment

Like most parents, Laurie Oulette wants her son to be healthy and happy. When he’s sick, struggling, or in trouble she wants to help him get well. But since his father’s suicide last December, Laurie’s 14-year-old son has become immersed in a video game addiction.

“My son plays video gamlaurieoulettees 10 to 12 hours a day. He eats, sleeps, and games. He used to be MVP in football and baseball and received high marks in school, even the honor roll. However, since video gaming he’s spiraled downward.”

Laurie, our guest on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show, reports that helping her son with his video game addiction isn’t as simple as taking away the games. She believes he needs real addiction treatment, just like with alcohol or drugs. But the search for treatment, she’s found, isn’t simple either.

From Recreation to Video Game Addiction

Laurie says that before his father’s death her son played video games a lot in his spare time. But unresolved grief from his father’s suicide, she explains, is what propelled her son’s recreational activity into the realm of addiction. Other people have urged her to put an end to the problem by tossing the games in the garbage once and for all. Concerned about the possible consequences of such a move, Laurie has instead tried to find long-term care for her son. The search for addiction treatment has proven difficult though, because video game addiction is recognized as a legitimate type of addiction by so few doctors and treatment centers.

My Son’s Video Game Addiction (from Laurie Oulette)

As a mother, to see her son destroy himself in body, mind, and spirit upsets me. It frustrates me when people tell me to pull the plug, when I have heard that youth commit suicide or run from home when parents do that. I do not just want to pull the plug on my son. I fear he may end his life, or do a violent act without his game.

I have been on a hunt for resources that would help him. I almost had him in an addiction treatment program, however at the last minute they stated this is a substance abuse center, and video gaming is not recognized as an addiction.

I do take accountability for my ignorance as a parent. I know I have failed. I never knew how addicted my son could be to video games.

Video on Addiction to Video Games

Watch our video game addiction video interview with Laurie Oulette on My Son is Addicted to Video Games.

And here’s the table of contents for all mental health video interviews from the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show.

Share Your Video Game Addiction Experiences

Are you or a family member addicted to playing video games? We invite you to call us at 1-888-883-8045 and share your experiences and insights. (Info on Sharing Your Mental Health Experiences here.) You can also leave comments below.

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Eating Disorders Recovery: Information for Parents

Eating Disorders Recovery: Information for Parents

Eating With Your Anorexic” author and HealthyPlace blogger, Laura Collins, has a bold message for parents of children and teens with eating disorders – “It’s not your fault!”

A lot of the information on the causes of eating disorders points the finger at parents.  Parents, says Collins, are blamed by many researchers and treatment professionals as playing some role in the causes of anorexia or bulimia in their children. She wants more evidence-based research into the causes of eating disorders as well as eating disorders treatment recommendations.

Eating Disorders: Empowering Parents

During the early stages of her daughter’s battle with anorexia, Collins felt lost, isolated and lonely because of her experiences with eating disorder treatment professionals.  Since that time, she’s learned a lot and now
spends her time as a parent activist educating parents about eating disorders and eating disorders recovery.

This Wednesday, March 24, on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show, we’ll be talking with Laura about her personal experiences as well as the pitfalls that many parents fall into and what to do about them and, of course, she’ll be taking your personal questions. Live at 3 p.m. CST, 4 EST. After that, watch the video on eating disorders recovery on-demand.

From Laura Collins

laura-collinsI am a 49-year old writer from Virginia. My husband and I have two children, 12 and 21. I became an eating disorder activist after the 2004 publication of my memoir, “Eating With Your Anorexic,” which told the story of our family’s experience with our daughter’s anorexia. Our family was fortunate. We had the means and the background to seek good care. We were able to do our own research into the causes and treatments of eating disorders and seek out clinical care that used science-based practices. Not all families are so lucky.

Our daughter has long recovered, but my frustration with an archaic treatment system and public misunderstanding of this illness led me in 2008 to start an international parent’s organization: F.E.A.S.T. (Families Empowered And Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders). We are the only international parent organization in the eating disorders world, and we are focused on two things: empowering parents with good information, and pressing for evidence-based practices in the eating disorder field.

I love my work. Each day, I have the opportunity to talk with and help parents around the world in their search for good care and support. I hear updates every day on families who are succeeding at helping a loved one through to recovery. I also get the opportunity to work on policy and education within the eating disorder field, and give speeches and workshops to educators and health professionals.

Blogging is one of my favorite ways to reach the public. As a writer, I find it a wonderful way to respond to current events and to have a real-time conversation with readers. I’m very much looking forward to blogging at HealthyPlace, and joining this community! (Blog- Eating Disorders Recovery: The Power of Parents)

Share Your Thoughts or Experiences About Parenting a Child with an Eating Disorder

We invite you to call us at 1-888-883-8045 and share your experience of being a parent of a child or teenager with anorexia or bulimia.  Do you feel responsible for your child’s eating disorder? How do eating disorder treatment professionals treat you? (Info on Sharing Your Mental Health Experiences here.) You can also leave comments below.

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Parents of Addicts

Parents of Addicts

Raising a child is hard enough. Having a child with an addiction can be a living hell; a nightmare of constant heartache and worry.

This week, on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show, we’re focusing on parents of addicts – what they do right, wrong, and how to draw the line in helping an addicted child (teen or adult). Our guest is Catherine Patterson-Sterling, MA, RCC and Director of Family Services for the Sunshine Coast Health Center in British Columbia, a men’s drug and alcohol treatment center. In this capacity, Cathy provides families of substance abuse clients the support they need from the moment of the crisis before entering treatment through to their entry into family programming and beyond.

In addition to being a clinical counselor, Cathy is the author of Rebuilding Relationships In Recovery: A Guide To Healing Relationships Impacted By Addiction (2004) and Fingers On The Ledge: Healing The Lives Of High Functioning People With Addictions (2008).

Cathy responded via email to a few questions on parents of addicts prior to her interview on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show:

1) What is the most difficult or frustrating part of your job working with families impacted by addiction?

The most challenging part of working with families impacted by addiction is that family members of substance-affected people love the people with addictions who are spiraling out of control with drugs and alcohol and out of this care, they will often jump in and try to fix the problems of these individuals with addictions. Such a rescuing cycle can be problematic because rather than confronting people with the addictions, family members will often try and figure out ways to help their addicted loved ones solve money problems or other issues related to the drinking or drug-using. People with addictions need to feel the negative consequences of their actions related to their choices of abusing drugs and alcohol. Some families are so scared of saying or doing the wrong thing that they will not confront the problem and instead focus on solving problems associated with the addiction instead.

2) What are one or two destructive things that families do in coping or dealing with the family member with an addiction?

Some families jump in and try to fix all of the problems with the fall-out from someone’s addiction. For example, they will pay off drug debts, give their addicted family member money for food knowing that other money will be used for drugs, make excuses for addicted people’s behaviors and so on. People with addictions need a caring confrontation so that family members challenge their addicted loved ones to see there is a problem and to get help for the addiction. A positive thing that families realize over time, is that the addiction will not magically get better by itself and the sooner family members challenge their addicted loved ones to get help, the better.

3) What is the role of family members in helping another family member who is an addict?

Family members need to stop worrying about doing or saying the wrong thing and instead confront their addicted loved one in a caring way. This is like holding up a mirror. Family members can say: “What I am seeing is….” as they describe the problem they are witnessing. For example, “Henry, I love you and I am worried. I see you drinking every weekend and struggling to make it to work. You are drinking a lot and driving everywhere. I think you are out of control and you do not have to live this way. You need to get help. Here is the number of a place to get support.” Often addicted people will make excuses for their behavior and this is called “minimizing.” Families do not have to “suffer in silence” and they can ring the alarm bell in their relationships with people with addictions so that they can get the help they need. In the long run, so many of my clients are grateful that the ringing of this alarm bell saved their lives.

Share Your Thoughts or Experiences About Having a Child with a Substance Abuse Problem

We invite you to call us at 1-888-883-8045 and share your experience in dealing with a child (teen or adult) who’s an addict.  How has it made you feel? How do you react to it? What tools have you found to be effective. (Info on Sharing Your Mental Health Experiences here.) You can also leave comments below.

If you didn’t make the live show, you can watch the video on Parents of Addicts here or use the on-demand menu on the player located on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show homepage. For comprehensive information on addictions, visit the HealthyPlace Addictions Community.

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Parenting Children with Behavior Problems

Parenting Children with Behavior Problems

A common problem every parent faces is how to assess and deal with behavior problems in children.  Unfortunately, kids don’t come with a manual and most of us learn parenting skills from our own parents and how they raised us.  Sometimes, that’s not enough when you’re dealing with a child who presents special parenting challenges.

Labels like disobedient, difficult or bad are used to describe these children with behavior problems. They’re challenging temperaments often provoke negative reactions in parents, which tend to make the behaviors worse over time.

Negative Parenting Habits

Many parents react to these difficult children with ineffective or inconsistent discipline and research has shown that the following parenting habits can lead to a cycle of bad behavior by both child and parents.

  • Parents model bad behavior and the child learns bad behavior.
  • Parents reinforce bad behavior, sometimes unintentionally. For example, laughing when the child curses because they think it’s cute or funny.
  • Punishing the child out of anger or using harsh punishment. These can also create resentment in the child.
  • Escalating of emotions, where the child and parent become increasingly aggressive with each act of bad or challenging behavior.  Equally as unproductive, the parent finally gives in to the child’s demands.

So how can you effectively manage your child’s behavior problems?

Dealing with Challenging Children

Our guest on this week’s HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show is known as “The Parent Coach.”  Dr. Steven Richfield has successfully worked with countless children and parents for over two decades, focusing his work as a child psychologist on child development, parent education, and the emotional problems of childhood. The product of his work, based in part on his experiences as the father of two boys, has culminated in an innovative approach to parenting. He has developed the concept of the “parent coach,” publishing a book, coloring book, and an innovative set of Parent Coaching Cards.  (Dr. Richfield addresses parenting and child behavior issues in articles on HealthyPlace.com)

On the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show, we spoke with Dr. Richfield about:

  • how to assess whether your child has a serious behavior problem that warrants professional help
  • strategies for managing and overcoming difficult behavior in children
  • why it’s important to change from being “parent cop” to “parent coach”

You can watch the interview with Dr. Richfield on Parenting with Behavior Problems on-demand.

Share Your Thoughts or Experiences About Parenting Children with Behavior Problems

We invite you to call us at 1-888-883-8045 and share your experience in dealing with behavior problems in children.  How has it made you feel? How do you react to it? What parenting tools have you found to be effective. (Info on Sharing Your Mental Health Experiences here.) You can also leave comments below.

Articles on Child Behavior

Here are some articles on child behavior and working with children who have behavior problems.

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Child Suicide: How Does A Parent Survive – Recap

Child Suicide: How Does A Parent Survive – Recap

The topic of Tuesday’s show, Surviving the Suicide of a Child, was quite difficult, but we hope it may prevent the tragic loss of another life by suicide.

HealthyPlace.com Medical Director, Dr. Harry Croft, provided some reasons why children and teens might choose to commit suicide:
• Depression
• Loss of relationship
• Drug and alcohol abuse

While these are only a few of the many reasons out there, Dr. Croft concluded that the end result causes pain, suffering and guilt for those loved ones left behind. (Read Parents Surviving the Suicide of Their Child)

Suicide: A Personal Story

Our guest, Elaine, can attest to the reasons given by Dr. Croft. Her son Mark, chose to take his life 11 years ago when he was just 17. Between his unstable relationship with his biological father, trouble with this girlfriend, and moving around with family, life seemed to be too much for Mark to bear.

Elaine relived that fateful day and told us that Mark’s behavior did not seem the same. Looking back, she recounts how her son made an effort to spend quality family time…maybe a sign that he had already made that painful choice to commit suicide.

The Pain of Suicide for Those Left Behind

Even though it has been 11 years since she lost her son, the pain remains as if it were the day after. “An empty hole will always be in my heart,” laments Elaine.

She copes by helping others deal with their own loss and created a website, dedicated to the memory of her dear son, Mark. She now knows that life is too short to take for granted and hugs everyone she comes in contact with, not knowing if she will ever see them again.

Signs of Suicidal Thinking

Unfortunately for those suffering like Elaine and her family, it’s too late. To avoid this pain and premature loss, Dr. Croft suggested that parents look for these warning signs of suicidal thinking in their child:

• Depressed mood
• Not enjoying things anymore such as friends, TV, games, studying, etc.
• Change in sleep habits
• Change in appetite
• Change in ability to concentrate
• Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
• Decreased energy
• Talking about suicide

The last sign, talking about suicide, should be taken the most seriously. When your child experiences a loss such as breaking up with their boyfriend or girlfriend, the best thing you can do is talk them. Dr. Croft reminds us that parents carry a great deal of wisdom that should be shared with your child. Another important action is to empathize and acknowledge their pain. Sometimes brushing off the issue can result in tragedy and then its too late.

Watch the Show on “Surviving the Suicide of a Child”

Take a few minutes to watch the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV show “on-demand”. You can also find detailed information on suicide and suicide support here. At Healthyplace.com, we want to provide you with as much trusted information as possible to help you or your family members get through your difficult time.

Join us next Tuesday evening (5:30p PT, 7:30 CT, 8:30 ET) as we talk about sexual addiction. If you have a story to share, or you or someone you know is suffering from this disorder, you can contact me at producer AT healthyplace.com. I’d love to hear from you!

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