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5 Proven Benefits of Play

Summer has come to an end and children are back in school. Back to school means waking up early, attending school, working on homework, doing extracurricular activities, and then off to bed early. This routine is beneficial for a growing child, but who is setting aside time for play? With all of these important obligations, are children getting the time they need to let loose and play? “5 Proven Benefits of Play,” written by Anya Kamenetz, reminds parents, teachers, and pediatricians of the importance of play and how it can help the development of children.  

1.     Play is essential for healthy brain development.

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Just as adults use puzzles and crosswords to exercise our brains, children can use play to help develop their brains. Brain-derived neurotrophic factors, or BDNF, allows the brain to grow and develop healthy connections. Studies have proven that play, such as roughhousing and tussling around, can change the expression of genes to increase the production of BDNF. 30 minutes a day of this kind of play can encourage proper development of the brain.

2.     Play reduces obesity and associated diseases.

Just as adults go to the gym to stay in shape, children need to exercise and play in order to stay in shape. A child who plays a lot at a young age, the more likely they are to be active and healthy adults. At least one hour of play outdoors has proven signification improvement in body mass index. A study showed that “children who actively play outside are 42 percent less likely to be overweight.”

3.     Play helps children manage stress and even recover from trauma.

Most adults are aware of the term “self-care”. Practicing self-care is a way to increase your health and well-being. Similarly, a study showed that children who play regularly, one-on-one with a teacher, taking their own lead, improves behavior and reduces cortisol, a stress hormone. The connection built between the child and teacher is known as “banking time,” the building of a warm, relationship.

4.     Play helps families bond.

Just as “banking time” builds relationships with teachers, it also builds relationships with families. “Hirsh-Pasek points out ‘the conversation with kids that come out in play are brain-builders.’” Playing allows children to regulate their emotions by “getting on the same page” as others they are playing with. This connection can help children in their future when they are faced with difficult situations.

5.     Play contributes to academic skills.

When children play using their imagination, they are developing their language development, general knowledge, and intrinsic motivation. This development leads to improved test scores. By connecting objects, words, and feelings, children are building STEM learning skills, which will benefit their education.  

Life can be busy and overwhelming at times. This blog is a reminder to let your child play. Not only does it release energy so bed time is easier, but it has many proven benefits for your child ranging from brain development, social skills, and academic improvement.

If you have questions about children development please contact us. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services. 

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

Reference: Kamenetz, Anya. “5 Proven Benefits Of Play.” NPR, NPR, 31 Aug. 2018, www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/08/31/642567651/5-proven-benefits-of-play.

America’s Real Digital Divide

The biggest question being asked: How bad are electronics for children? The answer: bad. The problem is people are not aware of the consequences screen time can have on their children.

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One of the problems is that people believe that middle-class children are being harmed by too much screen time. However, minority and disadvantaged kids spend much more time in front of screens."According to a 2011 study by researchers at Northwestern University, minority children watch 50 percent more TV than their white peers, and they use computers for up to one and a half hours longer each day. White children spend eight hours and 36 minutes looking at a screen every day, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, while black and Hispanic children spend 13 hours." This large amount of time spent staring at a screen has a negative effect on children’s ability to understand nonverbal emotional cues, and is linked to higher rates of mental illness, including depression. 

Unfortunately, low-income and less-educated parents receive the message that screen time is going to help their children. Parents are being told be teachers and other staff, that a faster computer can help raise their child's grades. However, in states, such as Maine, that supply tablets for each student, there has been no noticeable improvement on standardized testing 

No one is telling poorer parents about the dangers of screen time. This is the factor that is stopping these parents from limiting their child's screen time. The real digital divide is not between children who have access to internet or don't, it's about the parents who have been brain washed into thinking more screen time is good because they don't know any better. It's time to make a difference in the lives of all children. 

If you have questions about the effects of too much screen time and how it is linked to a higher rate of mental illness 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: Schaefer Riley, Naomi. “America’s Real Digital Divide.” The New York Times , The New York Times, 11 Feb. 2018.

Broken Brain

Mark Hyman MD is the Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, the Founder of The UltraWellness Center, and a ten-time #1 New York Times Bestselling author. At the peak of his career, he suffered a broken brain, causing him to turn into someone he no longer recognized. He felt like he suffered from depression, ADD, and dementia all at once. 

The epidemic of the broken brain is something you feel, hide, and fear. It is the leading cause of disability and effects 1.1 billion people around the world. 1 in 6 children, 1 in 2 elderly, and 1 in 4 people during their lifetime are effected by this epidemic. Mark Hyman MD created a docuseries, Broken Brain, to help transform your understanding of brain health. It is a series describing everything he learned on his journey to curing his broken brain, as well as diving in to the top brain disorders and learning why they happen and how to address their main root causes. This docuseries reveals what conditions like Alzheimer's, Dementia, ADHD, Autism, Depression, Anxiety, and Brain Fog have in common. Many root causes of brain disorders are outside of the brain. The rest of the body can play a huge part on mood, memory, attention, and behavior problems. 

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Of all the highlights and benefits learned from this eight episode series, here are the top 5 take aways Mark Hyman MD and his team learned from the Broken Brain docuseries. 

1. The Gut-Brain Connection
According to Dr. Raphael Kellman, gut and brain expert, "Embryologically, the gut and the brain start out at the same point, and then one goes up and one goes down. When two cells start from the same place, they always retain a memory for each other. They’re constantly speaking to each other in so many different ways. They’re communicating messages to each other. These messages are part of a communication system that really outshines any type of communication system that we know of today with our modern technology." The gut is considered your second brain. Therefore, a healthy gut leads to a healthy brain. By keeping our intestines and microbiome healthy and clean, our brain will remain healthy. 

2. Brain Health is Connected to Blood Sugar
Blood sugar is related to a healthy brain, especially memory loss. Experts are calling Alzheimer's type 3 diabetes. Dr. Ann Hathaway states, "When your blood sugar is high, it pumps your insulin high, and insulin is inflammatory. Inflammation is a major factor in cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. Also, high blood sugar causes something called glycation, where the proteins throughout your body, including in your brain, get a sugar molecule added to them. That addition of a sugar molecule to a protein is damaging—that’s actual damage to that particular molecule in your brain." It is important to keep your blood sugar low so that no additional sugar molecules damage your brain. 

3. The Thyroid and Your Brain
An unhealthy thyroid can cause anxiety, depression, brain fog, and many other mental health disorders. Dr. Izabella Wentz suggests, "For people with Hashimoto’s and for thyroid disease, focus on eating a whole-food-based diet that’s minimally processed. I’ve seen the most benefit from patients going on a Paleo diet, as well as the Autoimmune Paleo Diet. We see symptoms like headaches, panic attacks, palpitations, weight gain, fatigue, all these symptoms begin to melt away when we get rid of the reactive foods and focus on eating organic, wild-caught, and real foods." 

4. The Role of Fats in Brain Health
A low-fat diet is not always the answer. By avoiding all fats, we avoid the good fats. Dr. John Ratey states "omega-3 fatty acids are perhaps as good a treatment for things like bipolar illness as are some of our bipolar drugs. With that came a whole lot of research looking at omega-3s as a way to treat mood, anxiety, ADD, and autism. It has a positive effect on all of those pervasive problems. Plus, it’s great for the heart, skin, bones, the connections in our body, and also treats arthritis and the like.” Don't cheat yourself of the fats your body and brain need to stay healthy.

5. The Role of Community in Brain Health
One of the biggest take aways these experts had from this docuseries is the importance of community. According to John Ratey, "real connection is vital, and I call this vitamin O—vitamin oxytocin. Oxytocin is the thing that mammals get when they’re in a community, touching one another, hugging, and they’re sitting down eating together. That sharing, that social bonding that happens, that glue that cements us together is really important." As we grow older, it is important to remember to take our prescribed medicine, get exercise, but most importantly stay social and connected to your community. 

Watch the entire 8 episode docuseries for free to learn more about your brain health. Watch episode 4 to learn more about ADHD and autism. Watch episode 5 to learn more about anxiety and depression.

If you have questions about these services and how they can affect 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: Hyman, Mark. “5 Things We Learned from the Broken Brain Docuseries.” Dr. Mark Hyman, Hyman Digital, 5 Jan. 2018, drhyman.com/blog/2017/10/27/5-things-learned-broken-brain-docuseries/.

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.