Call it every mom’s nightmare – when their little girl gets a hold of the scissors and chops off their long locks. So how do you deal with that dramatic parenting situation? We asked Studio 5 Contributor Julie Hanks LCSW her reaction when her 5-year-old daughter did this a few days ago, and what tips she has for parents.
I am 14 and recently my parents have discovered I struggle with self-injury. After discovering this, they are going to send me to see a therapist to help with the issue. They, of course, know I struggle with self-injury, but I would prefer if they did not hear about it if I tell the therapist when I self-injure. Is this possible, or is it required that they inform my parents when I cut? As a minor, do I have any confidentiality from my parents?
A: First of all, I’m glad that your parents are going to take you to a therapist to address your cutting. Your cutting is a warning sign that something in your emotional life needs to be addressed. While there is confidentiality between client and therapist, there are limits to that confidentiality.Â Therapists are required ethically and by law to intervene when a client is threatening serious harm to self.Â Since cutting canÂ range from minor surface scratches to life threatening wounds, and I don’t know how serious your self-injurious behavior is, I am not able to fully answer your question. Your question can be best answered by your specific therapist when you meet with him or her. At your first session, I suggest that you ask your therapist how he or she will handle your disclosure of self-injury.Â Because you are a minor, it is likely that your parents will be involved in some way in your treatment. Many therapists will require family therapyÂ when working with minors because family dynamics often play a part in a child’s distress, and because parents play an important role in the healing process.
My biggest concern regarding your question isn’t whether or not your therapist will tell your parents, but why you don’t want your parents to know the full extent of your self-injury. Is it because you are embarrassed of what they will think? Is it because you don’t want to upset them? Is it because they will be angry with you? Is it because they will overreact? I hope you will address this important question with your therapist.
The fact that your parents are taking you to therapy to get help tells me that they are concerned about you, that they care about you, and that they acknowledge that you are in pain and need professional help. Consider that they may be able to help and support you through this difficult time as you sort through your emotions and resolve the pain underlying your self-harming behavior. You are 14 and it’s their job to make sure you are safe.
Take good care of yourself, and let your parents take good care of you, too.
Does the fear of offending friends or family members keep you from setting boundaries? It’s a timely topic with the holidays fast approaching. Therapist, Julie Hanks, says it’s ok to set boundaries, even if you offend someone.
Q: Why are we afraid to set boundaries that might offend someone?
You might mistakenly confuse boundaries with aggression or with using a “sword” stance. It might feel “mean” to you to do something that you know will contribute to another person’s pain, or you may feel responsible for other people’s emotions.
It’s helpful to think of these 3 relationship stances when setting boundaries:
This passive stance is characterized by a lack of awareness of your own feelings, highly valuing pleasing others, devaluing own wants and needs, and feeling “run over” by others. You value other’s emotional needs above self.
In this reactive stance, you’re emotionally “on guard”, lashing out at slightest hint of emotional threat, on “high alert”. You might let emotions build up and then explode with cutting words, snide remarks, or become cold and aloof and unavailable. You value your own self-protection over other’s needs.
In this enlightened stance, your “emotional” feet are planted firmly on the ground. There is a feeling of calmness as you seek a broader perspective. When you do get upset you don’t ignore it or react to it but seek understanding. You value your own and other’s emotions and desires and take responsibility for your part.
Q: Why are we afraid to tell people what we need or what we want?
We don’t want to jeopardize our relationships. We are afraid of isolation or rejection, or we are afraid to hurt those we love because that causes us pain too.
Q: Do we worry too much about other people’s feelings?
We do worry about other’s feelings to much when it comes to boundaries. I worked with a couple recently whose family always stays with them during the holidays. Just having had a new baby, this couple was not feeling up to having house-guests, yet they were hesitant to take a stand. We talked about the importance of concentric circles of relationships. In the core is self-care, then the next ring is the marriage relationship, then parenting, then extended familyâ€”in that order and challenged them to set boundaries, even if feelings are hurt.
Q: Are women more afraid to offend other than men are?
Women in particular are hard wired and socialized to highly value relationships and emotional bonds. I had a client whose friend constantly badmouthed her own ex-husband. While she wanted to supportive she was sick of hearing complaining. I encouraged her to honor herself and her own needs first, hold up a “lantern” to the situation and state what she saw was going on. For example, “I can tell this divorce has taken its toll on you and you’re really angry with Tim. Of course you are. However, I’m getting worn down by the topic and wondering if it would be more helpful for you to talk to a therapist because I’m not sure what to say anymore.”
Q: What if others don’t respect our boundaries?
There’s nothing more frustrating than setting clear boundaries and not being heard valued, or taken seriously. I worked with a woman whose adult son lived at home and refused to get a job. She needed him to take responsibility for his life but she felt like he was ignoring her and wasn’t taking action. We worked to help her set a clear, firm timeline of when he needed to start paying rent or find another place to live. Instead of trying to make him get a job, I helped her shift to setting firm boundaries in areas that she hat she could control (like who lived in her house).
Q: Is it harder to set boundaries with certain people?
Some people don’t like being told “no” and may resort to a “sword” stance if you do. If there’s underlying tension, unresolved issues, or insecurities in the relationship it may be harder to set boundaries.
A common dynamic I see in my practice is tense in-law relationships. There was one situation where a client’s mother-in-law kept trying to parent her kids when she was there, what food he could or couldn’t eat. I suggested that she take her mother-in-law aside and using a lantern stance, acknowledge her mother-in-laws good intentions and ask her not to step into a parenting role without being invited.
Q: Why do we protect other people at our own expense?
We protect others at our own expense because we think it’s the “right”, nice, loving thing to do. You may have been taught not to express yourself or it may be hard for you to know how you feel and what you want.
This is a common dynamic especially during the holidays. Holiday traditions with extended family often trump the individual and family needs. I’ve worked with many families who want to deviate from family traditions but know that others will be “hurt” by their decision.
No parent wants to be “Scrooge” about Santa, so why not just keep believing forever? Therapist, Julie Hanks, has advice on how to handle “Santa doubt” and how to keep Santa’s example of love and generosity, alive.
Should you keep your kids believing in Santa?
1) Let your child take the lead
Â· Watch for Santa doubt starting to creep in sometime between ages 5-7.
Â· Children usually make a gradual shift in beliefs instead of one big moment around age 7.
Â· Cognitive development shifts around this age from fantasy to more rational judgments based concrete evidence that doesn’t add up.
Â· 2 of 3 children said they felt pride in figuring out the truth about Santa, and half still liking the idea of Santa even though he wasn’t real. (Source )
Â· In preparing for this segment I asked my 9 year old, “Tell me about Santa…” He replied, “You mean do I believe or not? I think he’s real because there is no way you guys could hide all those presents from us! And I don’t think you could leave and buy all that stuff on Christmas eve. But I don’t believe in the tooth fairy. I think that’s just you or Dad leaving money under my pillow.”
Â· “We told our kids right from the start that there was no Santa. They chose to believe otherwise. We insisted that he was a story, a fairy tale. They insisted that we were teasing them. Finally, when they were around ten or so they started to realize that we had been telling them the truth all along but they decided when and what to believe.” –Stephanie Cannon
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.
Let your kids in on your own creative outlets. Whether it’s creating an online scrapbook, journal writing, floral arrangements, card making, playing flute, etc.Â My kids have grown up seeing me write songs and perform in concerts. Because I’ve continued to develop my creative side, from as young as 18 mos-2 yrs they’ll sit at the piano and scribble on a sheet of paper and bang on the piano keys while singing.
2) Have a variety of artistic mediums available
From polymer clay figurines to finger paints to play dough to a piano to colored pencils, have a variety of artistic mediums readily available and within reach of younger children. Encourage your child to explore his or her senses in the creative process by asking questions that help your child reflect on the process of creating. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to be creative.Â Focus on the process instead of the finished product.
3) Use a “broad brush” when defining creativity
Don’t limit creativity to the visual or performing arts. I encourage my children to use creativity in solving relationship problems, in school work, in expressions of gratitude, and in how they approach any type of problem. Creativity is a way to approach life, not only a finished “product” to display on the fridge.
Do you worry about your child’s emotional health? Worry no longer.
Here are eight suggestions that will nearly guarantee your child will suffer from poor mental health, strained family relationships, poor peer relationships, low self-esteem and chronic emotional problems throughout his or her life.
1) Shut down all emotional expression
If your child expresses anger, sadness, fear be sure to make fun of them, tell them not to feel, and dismiss their emotions. Withhold love whenever they express emotion, especially vulnerable feelings. Another tactic is to express more intense emotions than they are showing so they’ll stop feeling and focus on comforting you.
2) Set inconsistent rules
Never talk openly about your expectations for your child’s behavior. Make your child guess what the ground rules are and change them constantly. Be sporadic and unpredictable in giving consequences and punishment.
3) Ask your child to solve your problems
Share all of your worries, concerns, and relationship problems and ask them to solve it for you. Always present yourself as incapable of taking care of yourself and your child.
No. I’m not secretly pregnant. Several months ago I got a call from a casting company asking if I’d be willing to do some pro bono therapy with a woman in Salt Lake for a women’s health documentary show about women who are hiding their pregnancies. I agreed and the next day a producer, crew, and new client “Jen” came to Wasatch Family Therapy to film the first of 2 sessions for the show. Would you let a camera crew sit in on your therapy session? Surprisingly, after a while I forgot they were even there and was really able to connect with and help “Jen”.
Here’s a little clip from behind the scenes.
Here’s more about the show:
Each episode of â€œSecretly Pregnantâ€ follows the experiences of two women who, for various reasons, have hidden their pregnancies from their family, friends, boyfriends and/or bosses, and follows them through the emotional reveal of their secret and the aftermath that includes the birth of the baby.
Local therapist Julie Hanks, LCSW and Salt Lake City resident “Jen” will be appearing on the November 3 episode of Discovery Fit & Healthâ€™s new series â€œSecretly Pregnant.â€ As part of the episode Hanks will be providing therapy, with the cameras rolling, for Jen who is hiding her pregnancy due to fears that stem from the traumatic stillbirth of a previous pregnancy.
KSL’s Brooke Walker asked me to weigh in on the recent proposal from the Institute for American Values suggesting to lawmakers a mandatory divorce waiting period. In my clinical work with couples I’ve found that couples often seriously consider or file for divorce because they have lost hope of reconnecting with their spouse and think that they’ve exhausted all resources. I frequently suggest slowing down the divorce process by reminding couples, “You can get divorced next month, in 3 months, or in a year. What’s the rush?”
Luckily, marriage counselors have more tools than ever before to help couples understand the root of their emotional disconnection and to repair relationships, if they are willing. Dr. Susan Johnson’s Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, the model we use here at Wasatch Family Therapy, has had tremendous success repairing severely distressed relationships.
Learn more about this proposed wait period and here a few of my thoughts on the topic…
Pregnancy is a time of change, and living in a culture obsessed with appearance and thinness, many women struggle with fears surrounding body changes that accompany pregnancy. I recently interviewed with Parents.com to share my thoughts on this topic…
“Women need to develop a willingness to view bodily changes as part of the journey of motherhood, instead of something to be feared,” says Julie Hanks, a psychotherapist, and owner and director of Wasatch Family Therapy in Cottonwood Heights, Utah. “It’s crucial to have a healthy view of your body during and after pregnancy.”