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Posts tagged empathy
Anxiety and Resilience in Teenage Girls

In the article, “How to Help Teenage Girls Reframe Anxiety and Strengthen Resilience,” author Deborah Farmer Kris recounts how rates of anxiety-related disorders in teenage girls have risen. Furthermore, not only can girls get anxious and stressed out easily, but so can any other teenager or adult. This could be because of the environment they are in, denial of their stress and anxiety, lack of sleep, no validation of their emotions, etc. Damour, a psychologist and author of the new book "Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls," states “some degree of stress and anxiety is not only normal but essential for human growth.”

Through decades of research and working with adolescent girls and their families, Damour observed that “the anxiety that teenagers express is a sign that they are aware of their surroundings, mindful of their growing responsibilities, and frightened of things that are, in fact, scary.” She notes that adults can make a difference by reassuring their child and have an honest conversation with them about their emotions and what is going on in their life that may make them stressed.

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Keep in mind that teenagers brains and bodies are still developing and that change can spur stress. Not only physical or emotional change but also the act of continually switching schools, academic workload is increasing, or social relationships are constantly evolving. With this information, parents should continue to support their child but also let them figure it out on their own. “Teenage girls are particularly sensitive to the cues they receive from parents and teachers –  from words to facial expressions. How adults respond to teens’ emotional reactions matters a lot,” said Damour. The growth that they experience on their own will allow them to develop as a person who can withstand these types of stresses in the future and know how to handle them.

It is best not to avoid the anxiety as a whole, but to call it out and realize that one needs help. In this case, parents should stick to the two words that Damour has found helpful: “stinks” and “handle:”

“‘That really stinks’ is a very simple phrase that cuts right through it. It says, ‘I hear you and I’m just going to sit here for a moment and acknowledge that what you are up against isn’t that great.”

Validation and empathy go a long way when it comes to the exact thing that a child wants to hear, that they are being heard and that someone understands what they are going through. If teens realize that some level of stress is inevitable then they can accept it and move on to focus on how they can build in recovery time whether that is by having some downtime or getting more sleep.

Sleep deprivation is one of the simplest explanations for the rise in anxiety-related concerns, Damour said. If your child is getting less than seven or eight hours of sleep then a change needs to be made. Most of the time, teenagers may not be getting enough sleep because they are on their electronics. With the change of turning off social media for the night by putting their device on do not disturb or putting their phone in another room can make all the difference.

Stress and anxiety is part of life. It is not a parents job to get rid of it completely but to help their child get through it by sitting down with them and discussing their feelings. Stress and anxiety do not go away overnight, but with some extra sleep, reflection time, and downtime, teenagers can develop a sense of self on their own and figure it out with some guidance from a parent if needed.

For more information on stress, anxiety, sleep deprivation or how Hilber Psychological Services can help, please contact us and check out Lisa Damour’s book "Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls.”

-Written by Lily Schmitt and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

References

Kris, Deborah Farmer. “How to Help Teenage Girls Reframe Anxiety and Strengthen Resilience.” Mindshift. Web. 12 Feb. 2019. https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/52994/how-to-help-teenage-girls-reframe-anxiety-and-strengthen-resilience

Damour, Lisa. Under Pressure Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0399180052?pf_rd_p=f3acc539-5d5f-49a3-89ea-768a917d5900&pf_rd_r=R1KSEQT2AT89FSXWG6K1  

9 Things Parents Can Say to Defuse a Meltdown With Compassion

Of course you love your children, but aren't they just so good at pushing your buttons? It's easy to get frustrated when your children are demanding impossible requests or continue to do the one thing you asked them not to over and over. Thoughts may cross your mind such as, "I brought you into this world, I can take you out," (although you would never say that aloud). Your first reaction may be to raise your voice and punish your child, however this article will prepare you with 9 sayings to use when your child is having a meltdown that get the point across while still using compassion. 

It is important to reinforce connection, not separation. Vanessa Lapointe suggests "discipline without damage". Based off of science, and the way a child's brain develops, we want to build children who are hardy, not hardened. Children who are hardy have the ability to overcome to struggles of life, while children who are hardened cannot, and instead shut down using poor coping skills. Below are 9 sayings found on Lapointe's Disciple Cheat Sheet to help change the way you defuse a difficult situation with your child. 

1. Instead of: "What were you thinking?" 
Say: "I'm going to help you with this."

2. Instead of: "How many times do I have to tell you?"
Say: "I'm going to do (__) so that it will be easier for you." 

3. Instead of: "Stop it! You're embarrassing me!"
Say: "Let's go to a quieter place to get this sorted out."

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4. Instead of: "If you don't stop that, no Xbox for a week!"
Say: "I can see this is tricky for you. We're going to solve this later. Let's get a drink of water first."

5. Instead of: "Go to your room."
Say: "Come here, I've got you."

6. Instead of: "No stars on the star chart for you!"
Say: "Let's figure out a better way for next time."

7.  Instead of: "Stop. That. Right. NOW!"
Say: "If you need to get your mad out- then go ahead. It's okay. I've got you."

8. Instead of: *Silent eye-roll and frustration sigh*
Say: *Kindness in our eyes and compassionate hair tousle*

9. Instead of: "You are IMPOSSIBLE!"
Say: "We will get this figured out. I can handle ALL of you. It's all good."

The key to defusing a meltdown is to use different tactics from the Disciple Cheat Sheet. When your toddler does something, such as color on the wall, instead of yelling, begin by maintaining a calm voice and saying "You know we aren't supposed to color on the wall, let's get this cleaned up." If your toddler fights back, stay calm and move to another tactic, "I can see this is tricky for you, we're going to solve this later. Let's get a drink of water." It may take time, but eventually your child will calm down, and that is when you can show them how to get the color off of the wall. Your child still learns their actions have consequences, but you were able to get your point across without raising your voice. 

Children's brains have not developed impulse control, therefore no amount of yelling will change the brain's wiring. The phrases above work best for young children, but you can use the same idea of compassion to get your point across with older children and adults. When using these phrases, it is important to remain confident, all-knowing, and in charge, in order to avoid helicoptering your child. Although it may take time for the parent to refer to these phrases before getting frustrated, remember that "It's okay. I've got you," may be exactly what your child needs to hear. 

If you have questions about using compassion and the good affects it can have on you and your child or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact us. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services

~Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

Reference: Porter, Evan. “9 Things Parents Can Say to Defuse a Meltdown with Compassion.”Upworthy, Cloud Tiger Media Inc., 21 July 2017.

Emotions of Children on the Autism Spectrum

Emotions of children on the autism spectrum are often hard to comprehend. It is important to help children not only identify an emotion, but also connect that emotion to a specific event. According to Alice Kassotaki, speech language pathologist MSc, BSc, there are four steps to identifying emotions.

  • -Step 1: Definition of the child’s emotion: “Nick, you look scared”.
  • -Step 2: Connection of the emotion while it is being expressed: “Maybe you are scared because this is a new game”.  
  • -Step 3: Confirmation that it is normal to have such an emotion: “It makes sense to be scared when you try something new for the first time”.
  • -Step 4: Reassurance: “Let me help you. It will be easier and less scary if we do it together”.  

There are many simple games that can be played to help children identify emotions. Mirroring emotions and having children guess how you are feeling is a great way to have them practice recognizing emotions. One a child has accomplished this step, they will later learn how other people think, and then eventually be able to connect how their feeling in regard to what they are doing.

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Children on the autism spectrum may have difficulties displaying empathy. However, during the transition period from early childhood to preschool age, children are able to gain some skills. For example:

  • verbal and nom-verbal characterization of the emotional expressions
  • use of emotional language to describe personal emotional experiences and to clarify others’ emotional experiences
  • development of knowledge about the rules of emotional expression and how various emotions can occur at the same time
  • gradual understanding of social emotions such as guilt

It is an important first step to understand one’s own emotions. Once this is achieved, identifying, understanding, and reacting to others’ emotions is crucial to building strong social skills. Misunderstanding social ques, such as non-verbal signs, can lead to miscommunication. A child may unknowingly misbehave because of the lack of understanding. This can often be avoided by teaching children specific emotions and reactions in the clearest way possible.

At a young age, 4 to 6, most children are able to understand the main emotions: joy, sadness, anger, and fear (think of the Disney movie, Inside Out). More complex emotions, such as pride, guilt, and shame, must be learned through the main emotions. Here are 7 ways to help children understand the complex emotions:

1.     Attention approach: some children must be taught to pay attention to social information. When you notice a child feeling a certain emotion, such as anger, state their emotion and why they are feeling that way while continuing to show nonverbal signals, such as crossed arms and stern voice.

2.     Naming the emotions: As a child begins to pay attention to social information, teach them the names of the emotions, starting with the main emotions. Using pictures of familiar faces with obvious emotions can help the child relate the name to the understanding of the emotion.

3.     Designation emotions: Once a child is able to look at a frown and identify that that person is sad, teach them how to designate each emotion. Ask questions such as “How does he feel?” to be able to designate different emotions

4.     Actions based on emotions: Now that the child is able to understand and designate each emotion, help them react based on emotions. Rather than looking at pictures, show them real life examples of emotion.

5.     Role-playing: Give the child different scenarios of receiving ice cream and feeling happy or losing a toy and feeling sad, allowing them to role-play and further identification and expression of emotions.

6.     Modeling (filming): When watching a movie or television show, point out characters’ emotions that the child will be able to relate to.

7.     Games and books: Playing board games and reading books are also great ways to help the child learn about others’ emotions in different situations. This is a way to turn learning into an interactive activity.

While this information is geared towards individuals on the autism spectrum, this same information about identifying and understanding emotions can be used to all children. 

 Contact us for more information on children on the autism spectrum, learning and expressing emotions, or for help with children who are struggling.

~Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

Reference: Kassotaki, Alice. (2017). “Emotions of Children on the Autism Spectrum.” Upbility.

6 Things Parents Can Do About Catcalling

Catcalling and other forms of harassment happen everyday. Many grown women know the feeling of walking down the street and being whistled or yelled at, or heard small inappropriate statements about their bodies. According to the article "One in Ten Girls is Catcalled Before Her 11th Birthday. Here Are 6 Things Parents Can Do About It", one in ten American girls had been catcalled before her 11th birthday. In 2017, a report showed that more than one in six girls in elementary and secondary school have dealt with gender-based harassment.

First of all, this type of harassment at such a young age can affect the way girls feel about themselves, leading them into a downhill spiral of being concerned about how they look and even judging other girls based on their looks. Other studies have proven that females who have been objectified by members of the opposite sex perform worse on math tests. Finally, the more women are talked about in appropriate ways, the blurrier the boundary line gets. Males tend to forget that their little comments can go a long way. Although it is not all boys and men who participate in catcalling and harassment, it is happening and could be happening to your daughter.

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Here are six ways to help protect your daughter and fight back against this inappropriate behavior:

1. Point out pop-culture sexism 

Since catcalling is everywhere, especially in pop-culture, an easy way to bring awareness to your daughter is to talk about it when it is brought up. Whether it is on the television, on the radio, or even in person, talk to your daughter about why it is inappropriate and how serious it can be. Ask her questions about how she would feel if those comments were directed toward her or if it has ever happened to her. 

2. Get talking

Although this topic seems a little mature for elementary school, it is never too early to start talking about it. When young girls are harassed, only about 2 percent of them talk to their parents about it. Start around third or fourth grade to make your daughter comfortable and know she can talk to you if the situation occurs in the future. 

3. Let her know, its never ever her fault

It is important to emphasize that it is never her fault. She didn't "ask for it" because of her outfit choice and she wasn't "doing anything to deserve it" by walking around with a group of friends. Girls and women deserve to feel as comfortable and free as boys and men do. This type of attention is often unwanted, so make sure she knows to not feel ashamed if it does happen and that she can talk to you or any adult about it. 

4. Arm her with what to say or do

Reacting to a harasser can be confusing, especially when it seems they are "complimenting" you. Make it known that their behavior is the opposite of polite and it is not necessary to engage in conversation back to them. Sometimes it is better to ignore them and continue walking, while in other situations an assertive comment like "Please stop, that's not okay" may be appropriate. Remind her that if she feels uncomfortable in any situation, it is best to remove herself from the situation and talk to you or an adult she trusts. If this inappropriate behavior is coming from one of her classmates or other individuals she would feel comfortable talking to, encourage her to tell him he is acting inappropriately and he needs to stop. 

5.Talk to boys and young men in your life

If you have a son or other young men in your life, speak to them as well. Making them aware of the inappropriate behaviors at a young age can help prevent it from ever happening. Use pop-culture to show them what is inappropriate and explain to them how it can make others feel. Ask them why they think other men do this and give them ways to help stop it, such as standing up for girls or refusing to laugh at inappropriate jokes. Be sure that they know the phrase, "boys will be boys," is not an excuse to be inappropriate.

6. Take action

There are more ways to get involved than just talking to your daughter or son. Reach out to your community and plan meetings or assemblies to spread the word about catcalling and gender-based harassment. The more knowledgable people are, the less likely it will happen. 

Although catcalling and harassment won't end tomorrow, bringing awareness to the problem is a start. If you have questions about harassment and how it affects you or your child or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact us. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services

~Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

Reference: “One in Ten Girls Is Catcalled Before Her 11th Birthday. Here Are 6 Things Parents Can Do About It.” Girl Scouts of the USA, Girl Scouts of the USA, 2017.