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Technology Milestones For Kids | When Should Kids Have Cell Phones, Facebook, Game Consoles?: Studio 5

High-Tech Parenting: When Should Kids Have Cell Phones, Facebook, Game Consoles?

Under pressure to let your kids go high-tech? Get expert advice on when to let children have a cell phone, open a Facebook account and more. Studio 5 Contributor and therapist, Julie Hanks, has tips to help you manage kids and technology.

1) At what age should a child have a cell phone?

Age 12 is the earliest I’d recommend a basic cell phone for safety reasons.
Age 16 is the earliest for smart phones.

Tech Tip: Encourage responsibility by having them pay for monthly fee and any additional charges.
Tech Tip: Have child check in phone at night, before bedtime.

Read more

World Mental Health Day – Do Your Emotional Family History: Studio 5

I blog for World Mental Health Day

WHAT is emotional family history?

Emotional family history is the emotional and relational patterns inherited and/or learned from your parents and grandparents, which may have been passed down to you. It includes:

1. nature: predisposition to certain emotional & mental health problems or traits (i.e. depression, anxiety, addictions)

2. nurture: learned patterns of how to manage emotions in relationships (i.e. “It’s not ok to be angry” or “When there is conflict it’s best to leave the situation”).

WHY is emotional family history important?

Just like physical health history, country of birth, or personal history of ancestors, we can learn valuable information about ourselves by looking at the emotional patterns we have inherited or learned from our families. The awareness of positive as well as negative traits and patterns that have been passed down to us allows us to understand ourselves better, to be more aware of our emotional vulnerabilities, and to take responsibility for our emotional lives. Like puzzle pieces, the more pieces you have in place, the more clearly you can see the picture of where you came from emotionally. Frequently, clients will fear that doing emotional family history is somehow “not honoring” their parents and grandparents, but in my own experience I have found that the more emotional puzzle pieces I have about my parents and grandparents, the more I am able to empathize with their struggles and honor their lives.

HOW & WHERE do you find emotional family history information?

F-A-M-I-L-Y!

F – Feedback from “Outsiders”

“Outsiders” are anyone who did not grow up in your family. Spouse’s, in-laws’, friend’s, neighbor’s observations about the idiosyncrasies of your family are worth considering. As you grow up in your family, it’s easy to think that your family’s way of managing emotions is the norm because it’s all that you know. Some examples of observations are “Why does your family seem to yell at each other over every little thing?” or “Your family seems to handle conflict really well. I really like how everyone can have differing opinions and it’s O.K.” or “Why don’t you or your siblings, tell your dad how you feel about the way he talks to your mom?”

A – Ask Hard Questions

Be willing to ask the hard questions and get more curious about family relationship patterns. “Why did Grandma and Grandpa divorce in their 70’s? ” or “When did Uncle Joe and Aunt Betty stop talking to each other?” “How did Grandpa manage to remain so kind and loving even after he returned from the war?” Notice positive and difficult trends among family members. Are there family members who’ve exhibited incredible capacity for forgiveness, or tolerance of differences, or emotional resilience after traumatic experiences? Are there signs of unresolved trauma, addictions, abuse, divorces, infidelity, suicide or other problems that many families don’t openly talk about?

M – Mental Health Histories

Just as health histories are important source of information for you, mental health history of your family can also empower you to be educated, to know what symptoms to watch for, and to get help if those symptoms arise in your own life, and in the lives of your children. Mental health history allows you to be proactive and take preventative measures. Is there a history of depression, anxiety, personality disorders, substance abuse, physical or sexual abuse? Here’s an example of how mental health history is important. A new mom struggles to understand why she feels hopeless and worthless and has feelings of wanting to abandon her baby. Her mother discloses AFTER her daughter is diagnosed with postpartum depression, that she, too, suffered from postpartum depression after 3 out of her 4 deliveries. Had she shared that information with her daughter prior to her daughter’s diagnosis, they could have been more proactive in education and treatment.

I – Identify Emotional Rules

Each family has a unique way of being, managing emotions, and getting our emotional needs met. While some of these rules are explicit (i.e. “Men are always right”, “We don’t talk about feelings”, “We wear our feelings on our sleeve”, “Never admit that you’re wrong”, “It’s ok to cry when you’re physically hurt, but not emotionally hurt”), many are implicit and we follow the rules without conscious awareness. Ask yourself, “What messages did I receive about happiness, sadness, anger, fear?” and “How did my parents manage each of these emotions in themselves?” “How did my family respond when I have expressed each of these emotions?” If you were raised with parents who were sensitive to your emotions and needs, then you will likely have healthier emotional rules to live by.

L – Life Scripts

Similar to a movie script, we learn who our “character” is (the smart one, or the pretty one, or the lazy one) and how to respond in certain relational situations (i.e. when someone says you did a great job on a project at work, you are supposed to point out all of the flaws in your presentation and discount the compliment). We also live by scripts regarding our physical body, money, intelligence, worth, future, gender role, intimate relationships, sexuality, and family life. Just like emotional rules, many of the scripts you live by are implicit and never stated directly. For example, if your parents never discuss sex with you, you may be living by a script that sex is bad or wrong.

Y – Your Own Experiences

Examine and reflect on your own experiences in your family – the positive and the painful. Take the emotional family history information you receive from others and check it against your own experience in your family. Ask yourself, “Does this fit with my experiences?” The beauty of becoming aware of your emotional history is now you are free to sift through the information, keep the positive emotional patterns, and be proactive in changing the patterns that you don’t want to pass on to your family. Knowledge allows you to take responsibility for your current and future emotional life. Example: if your family has anger management issues and you find yourself screaming at your family, take anger management classes.

I’m Giving Away Therapy Oct. 3-7: Free Therapy Week In Utah County

Get free therapy & help your community

My therapy clinic is opening a Provo office!

To celebrate our grand opening of Wasatch Family Therapy Provo location we are offering free 45 minute therapy for new clients who bring a non-perishable food item to donate to the Provo Community Action Food Bank.

When: October 3rd – October 7th

Where: Wasatch Family Therapy Provo Office
363 N University Ave, Suite 108A, Provo UT 84601

Participating therapists include:
Clair Mellenthin, LCSW, RPT, Julie Hanks, LCSW, BCD, Mike Morgan, AMFT, Kate Hofer, LPC, or Christine Holding, MFT Intern

*News clients only

*Offer only good at Provo location

*Sessions are first come, first served basis

To schedule your free session: click here

 

Ask Julie: Can Adults Have Separation Anxiety?

Worried bride

Q: I’m 18, and I’ve been slightly dealing with Separation Anxiety throughout my childhood, I’ve never been to a psychologist or therapist for it to know that it officially is the disorder, but whomever I get close to, I get upset and have a fear of being alone, if they die or if I die, or if they leave and forget all about, etc. I’ve been in a relationship with my girlfriend for about 5 months now, and I fear that my childhood Separation Anxiety has turned into Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder, because, recently, for weeks on end, every single night, as if on cue, I get overly-upset and cry, and have wandering thoughts of loneliness and death surge through my head. And, last night, I made myself sick because of it and ended up vomiting and was shaking uncontrollably, and I was dizzy and had a terrible headache. And it’s always because I miss all of my close friends and my girlfriend and have a fear that she will leave me or she will die, and leave me all alone in this world, and she will be moving soon, and I fear that I won’t know how to cope enough and will have worse anxiety attacks. Could you help, please? I’m in desperate need of some advice on this subject.

A: Click on the arrow below to hear my response…

Podcast: Play in new window

Here are a few additional anxiety resources on Psych Central:

Find a Therapist Here
Information on Psychotherapy for Anxiety Disorders
Psych Central Community Forum for Anxiety, Panic, & Phobia

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Originally appeared in my PsychCentral.com column

Creative Commons License

photo credit: spaceodissey

Ask Julie: I Don’t Feel Anything

The problem that I have is that I’m not sure what’s wrong with me. Last summer, I tended to wake up without any emotion at all, then I would be all depressed and thinking I’m fat. Around 1-4 in the evening, I would become apathetic and it would feel like I didn’t have any more feelings. Then, around 6 or so, I would have emotions again. I don’t know if there is anything wrong with me. Sometimes I feel like I have no emotion at all and then out of the blue I start to have emotion. It feels like I overreached my limit to how much I can feel at one point and then I have to wait for my emotions to heal or something. Is there a limit to how much I can feel? Is there a limit to how much I can feel one thing? I feel really bored a lot of times but I still have a lot to do. Sometimes, though, it feels like I have to force myself to feel feelings and emotions. I don’t know if there is a problem or something.

A: It does sound like there is a problem, but I need more information before I can provide an answer for you. I suggest that you get in to see a therapist for a mental health evaluation for depression. Feelings of emptiness, lack of enjoyment in life, and focusing on negative thoughts may be symptoms of depression.

I’m curious what was happening around you or inside of you when you’d start to feel again. What activities were you engaged in? How would you describe the transition from not feeling to feeling? I also have questions about what it felt like to have no emotions at all.  Also, I’m curious about your relationships with family and friends and how you’re functioning in other parts of your life, like school or work.  Please write back with more information if you’d like additional advice. Until then, I urge you to seek therapy to help you get to the bottom of your confusing emotional patterns and start working toward enjoying your life.

Take good care of yourself.

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Originally appeared in my PsychCentral.com column

Ask Julie: Is This Obessession Really About Food?

Q: I had naturally been apprehensive to meat when I was younger. I liked to eat, but I didn’t really like meat (aside from the taste). Then, 6th grade came along, and I started having problems: depression, (the past, not now) suicidal and many other things. Along with that, a lot of changes were entering my life: I was about to enter junior high, and I had insomnia. Then, I decided to become vegetarian and anorexic. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t a complete vegan at first. I was “98% vege”, meaning that I ate hotdogs/hamburgers/chicken nuggets/bacon/top ramen soup. In seventh grade, I became full-fledged vege, and continued to have problems. In eighth grade, I turned my life around, and was the food nazi: no food additives, no meat, healthy as you can be.

Then I started running in 9th grade, that brought problems of enough energy, so I just ate more. (Oh and I have ran ever since in xc and track up until senior year 2nd semester, now I am training for a marathon). 10th grade came, and I found out that cheese had rennet….so I stopped eating it. 11th grade came, and I learned about gelatin….stopped eating it. 12th grade 1st semester: (btw, I was slower this year), I have stopped eating yeast (they eat things unlike plants, they seem too much like an animal).

Now, I am scared to eat eggs (not because anyone told me anything which I DON’T WANT TO KNOW), or anything with them in it: bread, pasta, brownies….Right now I am reduced to potatoes/rice/beans and some fruits/veges. I want to eat yeast again, and I might want to eat the things with eggs in it (because I used to LOVE pasta and bread)….thing is, I can’t. I am not that caring of a person, I am just slightly autistic and I have sensory issues and images get burned easily in my mind…. What should I do? Oh, and is this more of a mind issue or food issue?

A: Thank you so much for reaching out for help The short answer is that your food issues aren’t really about food. From what you describe, 6th grade was somehow a turning point in your emotional life and you developed depression, insomnia and anorexia. I’m curious about what happened that year. Was there an event or situation that triggered your symptoms? Were there changes in your family or environment?

You mention that in 8th grade you “turned your life around,” and yet you continue to become even more strict about your diet. Controlling what you eat and the size of your body can be a way to gain a sense of control when other parts of life seem out of control.  Focusing on food can be a way to manage intense emotions or a way to numb your emotions in general. I encourage you to get into therapy with an eating disorder specialist in addition to meeting with your doctor for a thorough physical evaluation. To find a therapist in your area click Find Help at the top of this page.

Your food obsession is a sign that you have intense unresolved emotional pain that needs attention, and that you are likely suffering from an eating disorder. Please, seek help so you can heal from your food obsessions and learn healthier ways to cope with the difficulties that you’ve experienced in your life.

Take good care of yourself.

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Originally appeared in my PsychCentral.com column

Sexual Abuse Collection: Mormon Women Project

Several months ago I stumbled onto an amazing website called Mormon Women Project that tells stories of Latter-day Saint women around the globe. Founded by a Neylan McBaine, I contacted her to congratulate her on the site, and let her know that I’d love to help her efforts in any way that I can. Neylan took me up on my offer and asked me to participate in an amazing collection of sexual abuse stories by LDS women by commenting on them from a therapist’s perspective. I’m honored to be a part of this moving collection of 3 women healing from abuse.

Read Accounting for the Debt: A Sexual Abuse Collection

 

We’re Staying Together for the Cats

Laughter is good for your mental health. So, I wanted to post something on the lighter side for you.  I got some good giggles when I posted my favorite bumper sticker of all time on Facebook

“We’re staying together for the cats”

Funny thing is that I hate cats. (Sorry cat lovers. I understand if you unfriend me)

S0, after I posted on my wall last week I got tons of responses from friends posting their favorite bumper stickers.

Here are some that made me laugh:

“What if the hokey pokey is what it’s all about?”

‎”I don’t suffer from insanity; I enjoy every minute of it”

“Give Whirled Peas A Chance!”

“Honk if anything falls off!”

“Where the hell are we going and why are we in a hand basket?” —>

‎”It’s not pretty being easy.”

 

OK, now it’s your turn. Post your favorite bumper sticker in the comment below. Your email will not show publicly. I promise.

Ask Julie: Depression, ADHD, Self-injury, & No One Cares

Q: Hello, I am a 16 year old Sophomore in high school. For the past 5 years I have struggled with addiction to self injury, depression and ADHD.

My parents refuse too believe anything is wrong with me and every day scream at me and break things as well as insult me about how useless I am and how I am always ruining their lives! My friends all say that I’m amazing and such a good friend but I have a hard time believing them when my OWN parents seem to hate me…My grades have gotten a lot worse because my parents deny that I am ADHD even though my doctor has said I need therapy and medication.

I failed three of my classes and the fights and insults got worse, my parents took away nearly everything I had and I almost committed suicide twice, My doctor finally told my mother I NEED to get therapy so she did reluctant, and told me the entire way about what a failure I am.

I went to therapy for about 3 months and stopped, my therapist was ignorant and treated me like a little kid. She blew off how I was upset about my parents and my hair falling out due too PCOS and being diabetic. I hate my parents but I love them at the same time… they always yell at me and get angry and things I don’t do and forget… I have ADHD and it’s not my fault! but they just yell a me about how I use it as a crutch. Right now I am not allowed to go out with friends and am constantly threatened that if I don’t start getting straight A’s they will take away my desktop and my books… I’m scared because I just keep hating myself even more! I can’t sleep at night and I can’t concentrate in school, I keep having mental break downs and freaking out and am nearly ready to start cutting again because it makes me feel amazing, I’m scared but my parents don’t care! I’m tired of working my butt off just to get yelled at and I really don’t know what to do anymore…. My school even won’t do anything when I talked to my teachers, I am really lost.

A: Thanks for reaching out for help to figure out how to manage your feelings of loneliness and hopelessness and stop your self-destructive behavior.

It’s not uncommon for adolescents to love and hate their parents at the same time when they feel invalidated or misunderstood. It sounds like you and your parents aren’t sure how to help you. My guess is that they’re very scared and are trying to motivate you by grounding you from friends and threatening to take away privileges, which in turn makes you feel punished and hopeless.

Don’t let the fact that you didn’t connect with your therapist before discourage you from seeking therapy again. If you don’t want to go back to the therapist you’ve seen previously, ask your mom, your physician, or a school counselor to help you find another therapist who you feel more comfortable with. Self-injury, suicide attempts and failing grades are all signs that you need professional help as soon as possible. Please don’t wait. To find specific therapists in your area, please click the Find Help link at the top of this page.

In addition to individual therapy, I highly recommend family therapy. Your family can learn new ways of relating with each other and dealing with conflict, and healthier ways to manage emotions. The therapist can also help your parents learn options to support and motivate you other than putdowns and punishments, and can help you understand and express your deeper feelings and needs to your parents in a way that your parents are more likely to hear.

It sounds like you’re trying to tell your parents, through your symptoms, that you’re in a lot of emotional pain, and instead of hearing your pain they’re seeing your choices as “bad behavior” instead of as a desperate cry for help. A family therapist can help you and your parents understand what’s going on below the surface for you, and help you understand your parents’ fears and intentions. The fact that your mom was willing to take you to therapy before is a sign that she recognizes that therapy can be valuable, and that is a good sign. Please talk to her and get the help you need as soon as possible.

Take good care of yourself.

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Originally appeared in my PsychCentral.com column

Ask Julie: My Son’s Illness Is Ruining My Life

Q: My son is now 13 and had been diagnosed ED / ADHD since he was 3. I was a single mom the first 4 years of his life, and married when he was four.

I now have two other boys, 2 and 4, and my husband and I are struggling to deal with the oldest’s behaviors. It is actually causing me to be very depressed at times and it is straining our marriage. I’m not sure what I can do, to help him and us. I feel like I’m going to literally lose my mind on a daily basis. I end up snapping at everyone or not dealing with normal issues, because I feel so overwhelmed.

My son’s therapist suggested I see someone, but I don’t know if that’s the right thing I need. Help? I’m afraid of losing my son to his illness, my husband because of the difficulties with son, and my sanity in it all.

A: Thanks for reaching out for help. You’ve hung in there a long time with your son’s illness and it sounds like it’s wearing you down emotionally.

I’m glad to know that your son is in therapy, and from what you’re describing, it sounds like it is time for you to get some help. I suggest specifically being assessed for depression and anxiety. The irritability, overwhelming feelings, and fears you’re describing deserve attention and treatment. It’s common for parents of children with chronic mental health issues to feel discouraged, down, overwhelmed, and scared. It’s also common to feel isolated, alone, and helpless.

After seeking support for you, I recommend accessing additional help for you and your family. Since you already have a relationship with your son’s therapist, he or she may be an excellent referral source for additional support services. Have you discussed with your son’s therapist your need for specific skills to manage your son’s behavior, or requested to include the family in the treatment process? If your son’s therapist isn’t comfortable with family therapy, ask if there are any recommended colleagues who work with marriage and family issues. Also, ask your son’s therapists for book recommendations about your son’s specific struggles. If you haven’t already done so, it may be helpful to read about your son’s illnesses, and encourage your husband to do the same. Gaining more understanding about what your son is going through may help you frame his illness in a more manageable way, help you less overwhelmed, and help you feel more prepared to support him.

Check with your local school district about parenting classes and support groups for children and families with ADHD and other behavior problems. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by my suggestions, ask your husband to help you research additional services to help your family during this time of crisis.

Take good care of you and yours!
Julie Hanks, LCSW

This post was originally published on my PsychCentral Ask the Therapist column