Tag Archives: communication

smartphone teen mental health

How is your teen’s smartphone impacting their mental health?

When we were teens we would leave school and actually leave. The day’s drama, while still on our minds for a short while, was left at our lockers. That doesn’t happen anymore—not with smartphones.

Nowadays almost every teen you see has a smartphone of some kind, and they are damaging our children’s mental health. Research shows between 2009 and 2017 the number of high schoolers who contemplated suicide increased 25 percent.  The number of teens diagnosed with depression increased 37 percent between 2005 and 2014.

Our children and teens are constantly in contact with bullies and are up all hours of the night responding to texts. Where they used to be able to escape to the safety of their bedrooms, that no longer exists. Technology has enabled them to always be followed and always connected to that outside world. Even though as parents we don’t quite understand this addiction to the phone, after all it wasn’t something we dealt with as a child, there are things we can do to help our kids. 

We have to set the example. It is hard, believe me I understand, to put that phone down, sometimes, but you need to show your children the boundaries. One important rule for is no phone in the bedroom at night. Your kids, and yourself, need to sleep. That phone is a constant distraction.

Taking that a step further, no phone or device use (of any kind) should be used an hour before bedtime. The blue light of these devices can be overstimulating making it hard to fall asleep. Not enough sleep can be a major risk factor for depression. 

Additionally, try to limit your child’s overall scrolling time per day to less than two hours. This doesn’t count time spent on homework. If they need the internet for a school project, that is fine. But, when homework is done time needs to be limited. This might be especially hard on weekends but it is so important—encourage them to meet up with their friends, go for a walk, be active, get out of the house, anything but be on that phone. 

There are some apps that can help parents to monitor and control phone use:  

  • Qustodio 
  • FamiSafe
  • OurPact
  • Boomerang Parental Control
  • ScreenTime
  • Screen Time Limit KidCrono
  • ESET Parental Control
  • Norton Family Parental Control
  • Limitly
  • ScreenLimit

More information on these applications can be found here.

child bully

What to do if your child is being bullied?

Bullying has always been a very real problem for children, and with the advent of social media, the internet, and smartphones it is even more prevalent and hard to escape. Knowing your child is a victim of bullying is hard to swallow. You feel helpless as a parent. You want to listen, you want to teach them, you want to go to school yourself and pull that other kid by the hair and tell them to “LEAVE (your kid) ALONE!” But, unfortunately, that type of behavior will only end badly for you and your child. 

So what do you do if your child is being bullied?

1.) Don’t assume — It can be easy as a parent to jump to conclusions. After all, you know your child, and you know he/she/they can sometimes be an instigator. They might have done something that has brought it on themselves. But, they could also just be the victim of some mean kids. We all know kids who are struggling with other issues but express those feelings in the form of bullying. Regardless, the most important thing you can do for your child is to LISTEN. Listen wholly, intently, to what they are saying. 

2.) Pay attention to nonverbal cues — Your child might be the victim of bullying but they may not be telling you the whole story. Watch them carefully. If you see a change in their behavior, ask them about it. Open the door for conversation. For example, if your child is suddenly more withdrawn, doesn’t want to go to school, doesn’t want to ride the bus, isn’t eating lunch, etc. Ask them about it. You can’t help them if you don’t know they are hurting.

3.) Don’t go to the other kid — You are your child’s protector, so you want to go straight to the source and end the issues. But that is not usually what happens. Parents who go straight to the other child to confront them often make things more awkward and uncomfortable, increasing bullying, upsetting the other child’s parents. It also can lead to trust issues between you and your child. 

4.) Involve the teacher — Your child’s teacher is your eyes when you aren’t around. They are also a neutral party. Tell the teacher what is going on and have them interject on their end. Sometimes the teacher can involve a social worker or peer-to-peer workshops to solve these issues. 

5.) Problem-solve with your child — Come up with a solution that works for your child. Maybe it involves sitting with another group of kids at lunch. Maybe it is switching seats on the bus. Talk to them (and check out tomorrow’s blog post for tips on how to help your child).

6.) Identify a safety zone — Your child spends a lot of time at school. They need a safety zone if they feel hurt, scared, sad, unsafe, etc. This can be a school social worker, school nurse, administrator, a trusted teacher, an older sibling, etc. Get the other party on board so they know what to do if your child comes to them and gives them an outlet to find help when they need it. 

Bullying can have long-term effects on a child, but as a parent being there and problem-solving together can teach them valuable lessons. Involving a licensed counselor can also help a child (and parent) to develop healthy coping skills and solutions. 

human connection

Our Need for Connection and What We Can Do About it

Human connection is about sharing experiences, ideas, and feelings with others. It is a sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves. And, it is crucial to our happiness, our health, and our overall survival as a species.

Yet, why are we so bad at connecting?

In our ever-connected world, where we can catch up with our high school math teacher or college roommate with a click of a button, scroll through images of our coworkers’ weekend adventures, or send a text in a matter of seconds, we are becoming increasingly unconnected. It is damaging to our happiness, our health, and our overall wellbeing. How can a world that is so focused on this idea of always being reachable be drawing us further apart? 

We are spending so much time with our heads in our devices we are missing that authentic face-to-face connection that is so important. We are losing sight of authenticity. It is so easy to leave a comment on a friend’s Facebook wall pretending to care when the reality is we haven’t thought about them in years. We don’t know what is real anymore. We choose what photos we are posting, what information we are sharing with the world and we create our facade, whether it is a true picture of our lives or not. We edit and re-edit ourselves. We tend to share the best in our lives, making things look picture-perfect, but leave out the struggles, the challenges, the stuff that makes us who we are.

There is a reason we used to function as tribes, all the woman working together to care for the families. All the men hunting and gathering. It is the same reason that often people who live alone die earlier and get sicker before they pass. Human connection, the need to connect with others, is at our core as people. 

To fulfill that need, we need to get out into the world and talk to people. We need to have face-to-face conversations. We need to do things together — have family dinners, watch a sporting event, go on a walk, have a picnic, connect outside of our electronic devices. And, we need to be authentic. We need to be our true selves. We need to share, ask the tough questions, open up about our lives and who we are. We need to focus less on finding a connection for ourselves and more on connecting with others. I know it sounds like the same thing but I mean to say that rather than waiting for people to come to you, go to them. 

Your mental health, your happiness, your sense of self-worth, all of it, will thank you for putting yourself out there and connecting. 

after baby

How To Keep Your Marriage Healthy After Baby

Adjusting to parenthood is hard work and it can put a lot of strain on a marriage. We all have ideas of what it will be like to have a child, to add an infant to our lives, but nobody truly knows what they are in for until they experience being new parents themselves. Not to mention every baby is different and every relationship has its strong and weak points. 

In the first few months after having a child, it is important to let go of any expectations. Right now is about survival. It is about keeping your child (and yourself) healthy and adjusting to your new life as parents. Give each other some grace. You are both going through a lot of changes right now, and you are likely dealing with them in different ways. 

Time To Connect

Allow yourself, and your spouse, time for yourself to connect with your new title as a parent and to rest. Breaks are important for both of you. Take turns. 

It is also important that you make time to be together, just the two of you. That is difficult after having a child because that child relies on you for everything but it is also important that you recognize it is important to keep your marriage healthy. And, alone time is key to keeping your relationship strong. Leave baby with a grandparent or a trusted friend, even if only for an hour, and take a walk with your spouse or grab a coffee or a meal. Whatever your heart desires. 

So often I hear new moms making the excuse that they just can’t leave their baby. Not even for an hour but the truth is even a short time alone with your spouse can do wonders for rekindling the spark. 

Talk It Out

Communicate with your family, your friends. Lean on others. This adjustment is going to be hard for everyone in your household. You will have to figure out a new normal. Talk to each other. Figure out what struggles others are having and brainstorm what might work best.

Share the load. You likely have heard the phrase before “it takes a village.” There is a reason that is so popular. It is true. We all have babies and think we can do it all alone. And yes, I am sure you could do it all alone but would you be happy and healthy? Let others step in and help you out. Let your mother clean your house or hold your baby while you take a much-needed shower. Let your husband do the grocery shopping so you can take a nap. Let a friend fold your laundry if he/she/they desire.

The more you and your spouse can work together during this time of adjustment, the stronger you will be in the end. It can be so easy to get angry and frustrated with each other during this time of change. Understandably so, you are both exhausted, stressed, and overwhelmed. Allow each of you to make mistakes, to learn, grow, and to adjust as a team. 

It Is All About Perspective

Parenting is one of the hardest things a person can do in a lifetime, but it can also be one of the most rewarding. All will come with time. For now, snuggle that baby (or babies) and do your best to keep things in perspective. 

If you find you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or adjusting, in general, it can help to seek the help of a licensed mental health professional. They can help to provide you with healthy coping mechanisms and support during this transition.

undermining

Ask Mabel: How do I communicate with my husband in front of our kids without undermining him?

Dear Mabel, 

I am reaching out to you again for your guidance and support. I have an issue with my husband and the way he addresses our children when he is angry. He can get to the point where he looks and speaks very terrifyingly at them, and my heart just breaks. They are fearful and he drowns himself in shame afterward. This morning he was yelling at my six-year-old daughter and she was dysregulating in all kinds of ways as a result, which was pushing him even further into his anger. I felt compelled to jump in and protect her, which often results in him feeling betrayed by me and upset that I am making him a “monster” in front of the kids. 

Today we were able to talk afterward and I told him that I feel like I need to protect them and his feelings when I intervene because I am in flight-or-fight mode myself. It is usually very hard. I am stuck. What language can I use in these moments to communicate that he needs to stop without undermining him in front of the kids? This is a heavy day for our family. 

Sincerely, Amy from Florida

Mabel: Hi Amy, I am so sorry to hear of your struggles. There are a few ways you can approach this situation. You can have a family meeting when calm, where you all make an agreement that when things escalate you each are empowered to call a time out and take a break. Make a plan that you can all follow. If you are all following the same plan together that would take the shame out of it. I also suggest you look at the Zones of Regulation curriculum for some help on the language for self-regulation and emotional control. 

Together, you two can come up with a plan, or code word, for timing out and determine how long the timeout should last. Come up with something you can both agree on. Determine what you can do when he is in that state to deescalate the situation. 

This is a quick bandaid. Long term, you need to have a discussion about what he wants to do about this and go from there. Seeking some help from a licensed mental health professional could also help the two of you to work together as a team in these situations.

How to Keep Your Relationship Healthy After Baby

Let’s be realistic. Having a baby can be a wonderful thing for a relationship but it does not leave any relationship unchanged. Babies are a huge life transition for anyone, which comes with a lot of challenges (and joys). 

In order to keep your relationship healthy post-baby:

1.) Change your expectations — Don’t try to go back to the way your relationship was before you had a child. It is not going to be the same because now you have another to care for, another to share your time with, and another to support. Your relationship will change and in many cases grow even deeper than it was before. 

2.) Communicate — As with any relationship, communication is key. But even more so during times of big transitions, you need to be honest and open. Talk to your partner about your needs, your desires, your struggles, etc. You can’t help each other through these times if you don’t know what each other is dealing with. 

3.) Schedule alone time — Yes, you have this new life to care for but don’t forget about your need to bond with your spouse. Even more so now date nights (even if they are at home on your couch while your child sleeps in the next room) are of crucial importance. You need time together.

4.) Give each other a break — Support each other during this transition time. There will be ups and downs and you both will need breaks. For mom, that might mean a good nights sleep, some girl time, or a massage. For dad, that might mean time for hobbies that they love and no longer have as many hours to give to them. 

5.) Have Patience — This time is going to be hard for you both, in different ways. There will be days when you feel angry or frustrated with each other. There will be days when you are so exhausted you can’t even think straight. Cut each other some slack. It won’t be like this forever. Recognize this is a rough patch and you will figure it out. 

Having a baby is a beautiful thing but few couples realize the complete life-altering impact of creating a family until they are in it. It is ok to not be ok. It is ok to struggle a bit with this transition. The best thing you can do for your relationship is to not lose sight of what really matters. You love each other and this new addition to your family, and your child needs parents who care for each other and support each other. Talk it out and remember you are on the same team. 

What do you do if your child walks in on you?

Yup, I am going there. I am talking about sex. If you are a parent chances are you have, at least, had some close calls when it comes to your children getting too much of a personal view. So what do you do if your child walks in on you having intercourse? 

It can be an embarrassing and terrifying experience for both involved. It is a touchy subject that can evoke a range of emotions. But, it is healthy. So before you even begin to have the conversation cut yourself some slack. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed with guilt or embarrassment and instead consider buying a lock for your bedroom door, take a breath, and clear the air with your child. 

As it goes with many highly emotional situations, your first instinct might not be the best so before you address the situation make sure to take a couple of minutes to gather yourself. Don’t assume your child saw everything. In many cases, the child likely didn’t see too much but probably still has some questions. Avoid going into too many of the juicy details and talk calmly to your child. Ask he/she/they if they have any questions about what they saw? Explain that you were having special time with your spouse—something that you do when you are an adult and in love. 

Young children likely don’t know what they saw, which makes it easier on the parents. If your child is out of preschool, however, they are smarter than you might realize. In that case, don’t gloss over the details. Be honest. It is better to address the situation head-on than to beat around the bush. 

Think about your child. Put yourself in their shoes. What do you think they are feeling? Confused? Embarrassed? Scared? Nervous? Draw on what your child already knows. If you have talked about this stuff before, start the conversation with “remember when we talked about..” 

Lastly make sure that you have the conversation in private, away from anyone that might make things more uncomfortable. Reassure your child that everything is ok, these behaviors are healthy and normal when done in a responsible way with someone you care deeply about, apologize to your child so that he/she/they knows they did nothing wrong. And, don’t wait for your child to come to you. They probably feel pretty shaken about the whole thing. Go to them and be open. 

It might feel like you have permanently scared your child but I assure you that is not the case. Be open and honest with them and things will blow over with ease. You will recover. 

Does humor help communication?

There is a reason comedians are popular. It is because they keep things interesting. They make people think about life in different ways. Humor can be a powerful tool when it comes to communication. It helps people to feel comfortable and to breakdown barriers. It helps to make the uncomfortable more easily received. 

For people who suffer from social anxiety or have difficulty connecting with others, humor can be a vital tool in getting them to open up. There are plenty of situations in life that are not pleasant, everything from routine physicals at a doctors office to parenting troubles. There is also a lot about this world that is boring but that we have to accept as “facts of life”— car repairs, paying bills, work meetings, the list goes on and on. Humor helps to make all of these things a little easier to take. 

Research (Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication) shows that people find it difficult to receive information from someone who has little or no sense of humor. Laughing with another makes people more receptive to new ideas. Humor allows us to approach things that might be otherwise threatening in a non-threatening way. 

Recalling a funny memory in times of distress can help provide comfort. Making light of a serious situation to bring a smile to a person’s face can help to bring them back to earth. Lighthearted humor ignites thoughts, opens us up, and grabs our attention. Not to mention, it eases our stress. You could be having the worst day but when you change your thought process to think about the humorous side, things get a little easier. 

In therapy, humor helps counselors and clients establish a rapport. It can help to put things into perspective and accept the information we are receiving. Humor encourages further communication. 

So, next time you are faced with establishing a boundary or addressing a problem with a coworker, child, spouse, etc. consider using humor to get your point across. 

Ask Mabel: How can I stop myself from cheating?

Dear Mabel: Help! I am married and I feel like I am slowly falling for a guy at work. It started with happy hour, then instant messaging, and lately we have had a few conversations about maybe meeting up outside of the office. I love my husband, I really do. But I have to admit that I am enjoying flirting. It’s fun. How can I stop myself from cheating? I don’t want to but I am feeling the temptation.

Signed, Annie from Philadelphia 

Mabel: Hi Annie, we are all human and it’s not uncommon to develop feelings towards another individual even when we are married. Obviously, there are some underlying issues that need to be addressed such as your internal conflict and the connection between you and your husband. You need to examine why you are attracted to this other person and what struggles might be occurring in your marriage that are making you feel like you need to look elsewhere?

However, kudos to you for wanting to do the right thing and avoid betraying your partner. It’s not easy to fight these feelings and urges, but it can be done. It’s important to remind yourself why you want to protect your relationship with your husband. Why is your marriage important to you? What do you love about your husband?

As difficult as it may be, it all shall pass. Plants need water, sunlight, and nutrients to grow. Relationships are similar. They need a few key components to germinate: time, proximity, and chemistry. Without one of those, a relationship can not survive for long. So what do I mean by those components? Well, time is the amount of time you are in contact with the other person, whether in-person, phone, or online chatting. Proximity is the physical distance between two people (this is why long distance relationships are hard). And, chemistry is liking each other, attraction, and common interests. Since you are flirting with this person, there is obvious chemistry. In order to avoid acting on that chemistry, you need to eliminate the other two components—time and proximity. I don’t expect you to quit your job, but you do need to separate yourself from this other person. You need to end the instant messaging, avoid happy hours where he is present, and decrease any time spent with this person in a non-professional setting. You can get through this if you take the right steps. Staying focused on your marriage and working to get through whatever struggles may be causing you to stray can help to keep your mind and heart in the right place. 

What to do when your daughter says she’s fat

We frequently think of teenagers as being the ones struggling with image issues, calling themselves “fat,” and starving themselves. But, body image issues can start much earlier. 

Recently the mother of one of my daughter’s six-year-old classmates told me her daughter had stopped eating ice cream because she thinks she is the “fattest in the class.” Last year, my daughter had the same issue. She wouldn’t eat because she also believed she was the “fattest in the class” and kept repeating how she thought she was “fat.”

I approached the situation by reminding her that only a doctor can diagnose weight issues. We talked about the meaning of “diagnose” and I asked her to stop diagnosing herself. I also talked to her about science and data, showing her her growth chart. I showed her where she was at and what is considered overweight. The data showed that she was not overweight, confirming that she had no reason to think otherwise. In the end, I told her to stop comparing herself with other kids because we all come in different shapes, colors, and sizes. I encouraged her to let the growth chart speak for itself. Since that conversation, my daughter no longer calls herself “fat” and has resumed eating normally. 

Whether you have a young child or a teen, it is important to deliver a similar message when talking to them about weight. You need to halt these thoughts before they lead to a lifelong self-image issue. As parents, we have the ability to correct these unhealthy thoughts. Rather than brushing them off and insisting that our children eat even when they are refusing for these reasons, present them with the data. Teach them how to think about things logically as a child and you will be setting them up to be a happier adult.