Friendly Conversations

Friendly Conversations

One of the important questions I ask the children and teens I work with is this: “would you please tell me about your friends?”.    

This question sometimes surprises them (and their parents).  When they made an appointment to see a psychologist they were expecting questions about feelings, emotions and life challenges, not necessarily about who they hang out with.  But it’s essential for me to know about young people’s friendships because when it comes to young people’s mental and emotional health – research shows peer relationships are vital.

For example, studies show that children and teens who have good friendships report increased happiness compared to children who don’t have these friendships.  Other studies show that young people with positive peer relationships are less likely to act in disruptive and challenging ways.  Other studies suggest that young people with stable friendships are more likely to achieve better school results.  There have also been numerous studies showing that young people who experience genuine and long term bullying (i.e. not just “unkind” behavior) are more likely to experience mental health issues as adults.

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I Can’t Stop It! Tics and Twitches in Children and Teens

I Can’t Stop It! Tics and Twitches in Children and Teens

12 year old Tyler* and his mum came to visit us concerned about something they called his “twitch”.   To show me what they were talking about, they bought along an iphone video of Tyler playing his xbox while this twitch was happening.  Basically Tyler’s “twitch” consisted of him tightening up one half of his face in a tight wink while swallowing hard at the same time.  This had been increasingly happening to Tyler for several months.  Now it would happen for hours at a time while playing his game, and also at times of stress at school.  Tyler felt embarrassed about it, and his Mum felt worried for him – their GP had recommended they come and see us.

Tyler’s “twitch” is usually called a “tic” by psychologists.  Tics are defined as a “sudden, rapid, recurrent, nonrhythmic motor movement or vocalization.”  Tics can be simple – involving just one movement/noise – or complex – which are movements or vocalisations which involve a range of actions/noises.

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Managing device/tech use in children with emotional and behavioural challenges (reducing the meltdowns when screens and devices are turned off)

Managing device/tech use in children with emotional and behavioural challenges (reducing the meltdowns when screens and devices are turned off)

One of the most common stressors for parents/caregivers in 2018 is managing their children's device or technology usage.  This is true for all families, but particularly true for children with behavioural, social and emotional challenges.  It can be particularly difficult for these families because:

  • These children are sometimes managing their distress/overload/stressors by using screens/devices/gaming to cope with life - and find it harder than other children to just "switch off"

  • Parents/caregivers of children with challenges are usually dealing with more stress than the average parent - and therefore find it especially hard to find the huge emotional resources required in managing tech use in their children.

  • Children with emotional/social/behavioural challenges are more likely to experience stronger than average frustration and disappointment - meaning turning screens off is even tougher for them

It's not surprising then that putting limits on these activities is extremely difficult for parents/caregivers AND children.  Most parents understand they DO need to do this – but it’s one of the hardest issues they face.

Here are 10 ideas which may make this issue easier to manage for some families.  Please note that I’ve listed these as “ideas”, not as “rules” – as not all of the points below will be useful or essential for all families. 

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Rude behaviour in teens (and pre teens) with emotional and behavioural challenges

Rude behaviour in teens (and pre teens) with emotional and behavioural challenges

Recently I was talking with a Mum, Taylor* who was despairing about the rudeness of her 15 year old daughter, Jess.  Jess was seeing us for support in managing her anxiety disorder and perfectionism, and I was talking with Taylor about how she was going with supporting her.  Taylor raised the problem of Jess’ rude behaviour at home.  She said Jess was polite and friendly to her teachers, teachers and friends, but as this ended as soon as she walked in the door at home.  According to Taylor, Jess would often rudely make demands, grunt when she was asked questions or sometimes just ignore her.  Taylor knew Jess was dealing with difficult emotions – but she felt unappreciated, resentful – and worried about how this would affect her and her daughter in the future.

If you have a teen (or pre-teen), you may be nodding along – it’s not uncommon for teens to be surly, rude and disrespectful with parents at home, while holding it together and being polite elsewhere.    And this is especially true for teens or preteens who are dealing with difficult life situation, emotional or mental health challenges.  Let’s look at the main causes of rude behaviour in these teens.

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Help, my child is always sad: tearfulness, sadness and depression in primary aged children

Help, my child is always sad:  tearfulness, sadness and depression in primary aged children

If you ask parents what they most want for their child, many will say something like this:  “I just want my child to be happy”.  Whilst most of us know, at a logical level, that we can’t make this happen, seeing our children frequently or deeply sad, is very confronting.

Observing sadness in our children often feels different to parents than it does to observe them experience other emotions.  When we see our child anxiousfrustrated or even disappointed it feels to us that these are normal, temporary and resolvable.  We also feel like there is a role for us to teach and support our children through these emotions. 

But seeing our children experience frequent or strong sadness – and not being able to make them feel better – is much more painful.  It can make parents feel helpless, frustrated, worried – and like a failure at some very deep level.   It feels “wrong” in some subconscious way.

However, the truth is - it is not uncommon for children to experience times of sadness.   Although only about 2-3% of prepubertal children will experience the type and extent of sadness psychologists will diagnose as a formal depressive disorder, many more children experience slightly less severe – but still persistent and frequent – sadness at some point during their childhood.

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